Readers Digress: I Choose My Own Path
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STIAAN, SOUTH AFRICA – I saw quite a long, heated thread the other day about whether or not players preferred to play as a good or bad character, and that got me thinking.
I really don’t understand why some RPG games force you to be either good or bad. As long as I can remember the RPG system served to be an immersive experience for you to experience an alternate reality. Therefore, when I play a game like Mass Effect or Dragon Age, I’d like to envision myself as the character onscreen. Or, alternatively, I’d sketch a character in my mind that I feel would be interesting to play.
I’d make decisions which I assume this character or myself would have made in the relevant situations. I’d try to experience at least one playthrough like this, and since The Elder Scrolls makes this incredibly possible, Skyrim has got my panties in a bunch. During Oblivion I played a solemn mage-like assassin, because I thought that resembled me quite well, and oodles of fun were had.
However, a lot of games releasing now encourage a player to take a more definitive moral stance by offering rewards for doing this. For example, Mass Effect has the Paragon/Renegade meter, awarding the player the further the meter progresses and also opening up new conversation options. This limits the imaginative process and escapism from reality, and hampers immersion. Any hopes of reaching my maximum power (over 9000) as a character I can completely relate to is immediately diminished. To get there I cannot kill the Rachni bitch, tell Ashley to go fuck herself yet still save all the colonists. This contradiction will prevent the complete game experience.
Dragon Age 2 implemented the absolute worst thing I have ever experienced. If you were a real dick to your party members, they gained a buff. If you were a real thumbs-up friend to them, they gained a buff. So if I wanted to push my party member in a certain direction, I would have to either strongly agree or disagree with everything they did, regardless of how I really felt about it.
Things like this just completely crush the conversation and decision-making system. Now, instead of weighing your options, you’ve probably already decided that you are either going to go all out badass or angel because of the relevant gains from doing this, so your decision is majorly influenced by it. It also renders useless certain gray, neutral pathways, because they eliminate the buffs you would have experienced had you taken a definitive moral stance.
Instead of a moral counter, I’d much rather experience a game where decisions inspire doubt and more thought, and the influence they have has a more visible and emotional impact (read: TES).
What I guess I am trying to say is that somewhere along the lines developers decided to implement systems that only allow for two basic character types, one being Satan himself, the other your local minister. I can’t speak for others, but I genuinely prefer to have a little more freedom than that.