Malindy Het­feld GAMES ARE OVERZEAL­OUS IN AS­SIGN­ING ME FRIENDS. GIVE ME A REA­SON TO CARE ABOUT THEM.

Friend­ships in games of­ten ben­e­fit the player only, but there’s more to good re­la­tion­ships

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - OPINION - WRITER BIO Malindy Het­feld be­lieves that game char­ac­ters shouldn’t be­come friends from one mo­ment to the next. She also of­fered Jess Kinghorn her never-end­ing al­le­giance dur­ing their first con­ver­sa­tion for han­dling one un­com­fort­able email.

Mak­ing friends height­ens the sense of dis­cov­ery and emo­tional at­tach­ment in a game. Af­ter all, you’re rarely com­pletely alone, and the peo­ple you meet fill the world with life and give the op­por­tu­nity for dif­fer­ent in­ter­ac­tions. In the games of my youth, a friend of­ten equalled lit­tle more than a side­kick, but has that re­ally changed?

Jak and Dax­ter, Ratchet and Clank, Yooka and Laylee – I’m used to games that give me a pair of un­likely besties to open up new pos­si­bil­i­ties for game­play. RPGs of­ten come with large ros­ters of char­ac­ters, and open worlds are awash with NPCs. What I don’t un­der­stand is why these friends are rarely more than a sen­tient weapon. Who are these peo­ple, and why should I care about their prob­lems?

I see friend­ships as re­la­tion­ships of give and take. In games like Mass Ef­fect, we mostly get to take. We don’t have to risk our own dis­com­fort, but if we want to sam­ple the alien goods, we’d bet­ter fly to the end of the known uni­verse to kill for the priv­i­lege. Con­versely, a vir­tual chum can show us the cold shoul­der or, at worst, leave for­ever at the first sign of dis­sent.

FRIENDS IN DEED

Games that provide zero con­text to friend­ships are al­most worse. Take Fi­nal Fan­tasy XV. Un­less you’re will­ing to watch a pre­quel anime and buy sev­eral DLC, it’s hard to be­lieve in the choco­bros’ friendship. I guess I’m sup­posed to feel the love in their chats about the weather. There are of course good ex­am­ples, too. It may take sev­eral parts of the se­ries, but even­tu­ally you find Un­charted’s Nate and Sully share more than just their wit. Night In The Woods is a great ex­am­ple of re­la­tion­ships and how you have to put ef­fort into main­tain­ing them. In Fi­nal Fan­tasy IX, friend­ships form through get­ting to know each other, let­ting go of mis­con­cep­tions and, yes, mak­ing up af­ter ar­gu­ments.

Friends should be more than quest givers and peo­ple who com­ment on your progress.

I get the idea of want­ing to make the player feel in con­trol by hav­ing masses of char­ac­ters sing their praises but I want to earn it, both me­chan­i­cally and nar­ra­tively.

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