Or: How I learned that I may have open-world agoraphobia (or ADD, or actual commitment issues.)
Surprise, surprise dear reader mine! This post has nothing to do with relationships and commitment to things that actually matter. This post has everything to do with my attention span, and lack thereof, when it comes to big wide open video game worlds.
Video games have really changed in the past two decades. Lost are the linear, level-by-level, story driven experience and the deceptively simple side scrolling jump-duck-shoot actions. Gone are the days of the character’s back story being provided in the liner notes of your game box.
(Did you know that the original residents of the Mushroom Kingdom have been transformed into all of the inanimate objects that Mario & Luigi smash, break, and POW their way through to defeat Bowser, who is actually a master magician? Of course you did, because you read the liner notes.)
Games have changed to provide more exploration and deviation from traditional storytelling than ever before. These open-world games typically provide hours of extra content alongside the protagonist’s story campaign in the form of side-missions, exploration, tchotchkes to collect and non-playable characters to save.
While most people look at these vast playable areas and can’t wait to get their Marco Polo, Indiana Jones, and Ferdinand Magellan on; I look at these vast playable areas … and squint. The maps are big and labeled with tiny font (it’s not my eyes…it’s you, game.)
What’s that marker mean? Where’s the legend? How do I make it bigger? Seriously, where am I supposed to go now? Was the campaign marker the red one, or was that the cross-dressing circus ringleader’s fake tiger I was supposed to save?
I wish I was joking. Maybe I should just sit closer.
Typically, with a good story-focused game, I have no problems going from Point A to Point B, chasing one McGuffin after the next. Once that map opens up and I’m given options of what to do…well, I hope that the world can wait and the impending doom is not really all that impending, because I’m going over there, to look at that other thing instead.
What happens then is one random side quest after the next. Chasing things that have no bearing or matter to the actual story arc or narrative progression, but might be neat. Then, I get tired, because I’m old now, and I go to bed. Repeat this for a few days, then weeks, and now I have a vague recollection of what I was really supposed to be doing.
What do I do then, oh wanderer, mine?
When is it time to move on, and when can you still go back? Who am I kidding? We have to go back. We have to go back, Kate!
Sorry, wrong open world. Although, now that I’m thinking about it, LOST was really just an open world television series. Writers were free to jump from the main story line to random side missions on a whim. Leaving hundreds of unfinished fetch quests, side missions, back story and character relationships unfinished when the final campaign mission was played.
Back to these big games. For some, it can be exciting to pull up that pause menu map and see just what may be in store for you as you uncover the grayed out areas of the map that have yet to be explored.
In my case, it can also be a little overwhelming. If you haven’t noticed from reading this, and other posts; my attention, just like my writing, and my driving, can drift easily. I tend to suffer from, what I have come to call, open-world syndrome. I have commitment issues when a game presents too much to do. I start to drown in the tchotchkes and macguffins, and lose all sense of direction.
This is how come it’s so hard to go back to games that have been in the dreaded backlog for so long, even when I know that it’s going to be a good game to finish. What was I doing to begin with, and what do I do next?
So, here’s what’s going to happen, oh wanderer mine. Over the next few months, I’m going to go back to those mysterious islands of intrigue and distraction and see how I fare. Will I brave the quests and follow the story and see that completion percentage rise? Or, will I follow the bright shiny promises of the new and unexplored?
Here’s just a taste of what’s to come, because I know you all can’t wait.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Gasp, I know, I know. It was everyone’s “Game of the Year” without actually winning the game of the year award. An epic saga of the waning wild west. I spent most of my time riding my horse and hunting different animals than any real wild-westing.
God of War
Another audible gasp. This one actually won “Game of the Year – 2018” from The Game Awards. This time there was Kratos and Boy, a boat, a giant snake, and a talking head hanging from your belt that would tell wild stories, but only when you were in the boat.
Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Final, audible gasp. I mean, it’s a Zelda game! And in many players minds it’s THE Zelda game. This game had so many things going for it, and that’s what may have actually led to it’s demise.
I should feel bad about my unfinished investments. Shouldn’t I? My under-developed cast and and my cheated on characters. After all, I knew going in that I should be ready to settle down and become a monogamous player as I devote all of my time to this one world. A world so meticulously created for me, the explorer.
What would you do with a wide open world?
*This post was brought to you by distraction, exploration, animal pelts, backtracking, and falling asleep on the couch. As well as a feature called #MaybeInMarch, where we were encouraged to take a look at our backlog of unfinished games, unexplored territories, and finish them, maybe.
**Also, the picture was taken using the in-game photo mode during a play through of Assassin’s Creed: Origins, in which I did actually finish the story (and spent way too much time fiddling with the in-game photo mode.)
If you’re still reading this then you must be dying to know what game I chose to finish, or rather, start to finish for my #MaybeInMarch challenge. Well, me being me, I couldn’t even finish a blog post about distraction in the allotted time frame of March, and like any good gamer out there, I started a brand new, story driven, open world game. It’s going well so far. I may even finish the story. I guess there’s #AlwaysInApril!
6 thoughts on “The One About Commitment in an Open World”
I feel that being a Japanese-developed game of a style that originated in the West, Breath of the Wild ended up bringing a lot of new things to the table. Despite containing many of the same things as something like Far Cry, it still felt fresh even when the style became oversaturated. I also feel the scenario really complemented the open-world format. Rather than attempt to cram a standard narrative into an open-world game, Nintendo placed the onus on the player to find the story beats themselves. It’s easily one of the best games of the 2010s any way you slice it.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Thanks for reading! There definitely was a lot of responsibility placed on the player to find the story this time around. It was always a lot of fun whenever I did pick it back up, but I always felt that I was never really getting anything done. There were a lot of reasons I fell away from BotW besides the large open world, but it didn’t help the story, in my case!