I’m reading yet anothe 20 year old book on interactivity and interaction design. It’s written by Chris Crawford and so far, together with Derek Burrill’s Die Tryin’, it is one of the least dude broe-y books written by men that I’ve read. It also puts the finger on an issue I have with the current state of games. One – it points to the utter boredom it means to only kill stuff. As Crawford says, there are only so many ways you can eviscerate a person before you’ve seen it all. Two – it points out that we need choices, or at least the illusion of choice, for games to be truly interactive and truly meaningful.
So even though the idea of narrative games being pretty neat is true – they are pretty neat – you have to give the player at least the illusion of choosing a path for themselves. This is where even The Witcher 3 surpasses a game like God of War. The Witcher may not actually have choices (although it does – tiny ones) but it lets me as a player think that I do.
Any BioWare game would leave The Witcher 3 in the dust as well, at least on the outside.
The illusion of choice is important, unless you as a game designer expect your audience to play along with any narrative you’ve set up and the character the player has to play. I’m sure that Kratos character development is fascinating to many players, but to me he’s a two dimensional cardboard cutout of a man.
There’s no real depth in him, and to me, his flat emotional life comes actoss as a caricature rather than a man who’s actually in pain and mourning the passing of his wife. This impression is made even stronger by the lack of control I have over what Kratos says or does. In other words, the lack of choice aggravates the senes of flatness and my sense of being locked on to a railroad track. Take it or leave it, the game says.
My inclination is to leave it. This game is not really interactive. It is a story that allows you to upgrade your axe and armor and – reluctantly – do favors for other inhabitants in the realm, but otherwise it is about as exciting as being stuck on a rollercoaster. I might get some feelings of exhilaration now and then, but there’s no real emotional investment. One direction only, no branching, no deviations.