By Fripplebubby 7 Comments
I've been doing a lot of two things as of late, playing Bioware RPG's and thinking. If one is to do this too much, they start to realize some truly odd things about the way the story in these games (namely the Mass Effect series and Dragon Age: Origins) works as far as how much effect the character you play (you referring to the person playing the game) has on the story as a whole, or at least the small details of it. Let me elaborate.
Let's say i'm playing Mass Effect 2, as good 'ol Commander Shepard. I'm running around on the Citadel, endorsing this or that, filling out my spaceship collection, et cetera. I see some interesting space woman up against a window somewhere and I gallop on up to speak to her (note that this is a hypothetical situation, and i'm pretty sure this never actually happened. Let's pretend). She says something with an intricate detail, and thoughts that are real and have value. I can respond with simply a few options that generally involve either probing her further along her established conversational route or otherwise asking her something mission-specific, or saying goodbye. I can't, however, respond with my own tale of boring details and how I was abused as a child or whatever, because this cannot be properly expressed in the shorthand as an option you would want to choose at a moments notice, and would invariably just lead to confusion if it was attempted.
Don't get me wrong, i'm not saying I demand this to be something that future games work on, and I realize that the main character having a long-winded response to every damn space woman would perhaps make the game tedious and probably disliked by the sniveling masses (you know who you are, CODBLOPS fans). I just would like to point out this discrepancy between video games and other forms of story-telling, like novels or movies, in which all characters are interesting and have things of real value to say. In games, it seems all characters are interesting except the one you play.
That's not to say the character you play doesn't have a profound role to play in the world, as I would say it is quite rare that you end up in the shoes of a janitor or cook and much more common to be the person to save the world from definite destruction. From this standpoint, the character is certainly "interesting", but really, it is not because the player decides to make it so. I suppose this is why the majority of games either choose a silent protagonist or one that only speaks in unchangeable cutscenes.
To sum up my point, it is often in games to play the character of someone who is told the long-winded "tales of the forest" or whatever it is by some NPC, but never the player's role to actually tell the tale to some random adventurer. This seems like an awfully one-sided approach to story-telling, but regardless it seems to be the most interesting, invariably.
I hope at least some portion of that made sense.