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
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.