Many gamers, myself included, have something called Attention Deficit Dis - look, a squirrel! And when ADD is coupled with something like the limitless possibilities of games like Grand Theft Auto 4 and Saints Row the 3rd, something terrible happens....We end up doing whatever the hell we want and the story falls by the wayside. How am I supposed to enjoy the rich narrative of Tony’s gayness if I can’t even drive two blocks without running over a hooker and attracting the attention of the police? And as for Saints Row… well I heard the story really isn’t that great anyway, but that’s beside the point.
I am writing this article because after years of remission I have recently fallen ill with “GTA Syndrome” in one of my favorite new shooters, Far Cry 3. There is simply too much to do; bandits must be killed, towers must be unlocked, animals must be skinned, bags must be made, and a fake game of poker with virtual natives DEMANDS my attention!!
Let me clarify, the story so far has been nothing but riveting, and the antagonist, Vaas, is one of the most interesting characters in all of gaming, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to make progress. I’ve sunk twelve hours into the game and have barley saved two of my pals…This wasn’t as issue in Far Cry 2, I enjoyed the wandering gameplay, but the repetitive nature of the game served as an excellent motivator to complete the storyline as soon as humanly possible. And don’t even get me started on Skyrim, I’m level fifty-two and I haven’t even learned my fus-do-rah.
You may think this article is a bit tongue-in-cheek and not meant to be taken seriously and while that is partly true, I do think there is a legitimate problem here. Too much player choice ultimately breaks narrative immersion. There, I said it. At the end of the day, when the player is running around skinning pigs to craft a new syringe belt, the main objective (saving your friends from kidnappers) seems neither urgent nor vital. Sure, call me crazy but you know as well as I do that at least three of the ten hours of your Mass Effect 3 play through were devoted solely to getting into Ashley’s pants, meanwhile planet Earth and the human race was getting glassed by a giant purple crab.
So, what strikes an appropriate balance between narrative and wanderlust?
The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time.
You can explore to your heart’s content but sooner or later you will run into an impassible obstacle that requires an item obtained from the main quest line to overcome. Before I wrap this up, I want to state that I am not saying that Grand Theft Auto 5 shouldn’t be made.
I’m merely stating that when that game does release, I am going to do the same thing that I have done for the past four installments; take a baseball bat to some pedestrians and go burn down a mall.