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Player vs. Character

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I first started thinking about this distinction when playing the two PS3 games "Darksiders" and "Demon's Souls". Darksiders is much easier and character-oriented (the player is merely the conduit via which the horseman War fights). Demon's Souls is more player-oriented and more challenging, because skill is far more important than leveling. The character is tabula rasa and customizable. I define player orientation as the extent to which the player has a stake in a game's interactivity. Too little can make the player feel alienated, while too much places pressure on the player. Interactive storytelling increases player orientation, and I suppose that most games are not player-oriented because they are far too linear. Character orientation is the character's importance in the story, as opposed to the player. It is directly proportional to the linearity of gameplay. What is the ideal balance of character and player involvement? RPGs necessarily strive to be player-oriented, while other types of games are character-oriented. Character-orientation appears much easier to create, but is it better? Most game designers, especially Chris Crawford, contrive as much interactivity as they can within technical and practical bounds. Interactive stories do not have the might of linear stories; they are much more diluted, but if taken as a whole, their verisimilitude is more realistic and creates much more replay value. What are your thoughts?

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I don't think there's a perfect balance. It depends on the type of player you're trying to reach. I like to bring my own creativity to a game, and I like to be engaged inside the framework of the world the game offers. If you call be a general or king, for instance, and give me the task of capturing lands but tell me step by step how to do it, I'm not going to feel very much like the role I'm supposed to be playing.

I've met many players who find my mentality alien, though. They like set steps to measure themselves by and want the game to give them acknowledgement for their effort and to tell them they're doing the right thing. In my experience these folks tend not to like sandbox games, which are my favorite.

So I guess the right answer is "it depends." I prefer to read linear stories rather than play them because, just as you said, games pale in comparison. What you describe as player-oriented games give me a chance to feel more like a part of the game world because I can sort of look behind the facade, wander where I like and succeed on my own terms.

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