Should Gamers be Empowered?

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December 2, 2012 by Devin

One of the trends I’ve noticed in video games recently is that games tend to empower the player in a significant way. Simply put, it is fun to be a super-powerful force when in reality, the player is not super powerful. Skyrim lets you command the elements and become incredibly stealthy. Call of Duty makes you a super soldier that would make both Captain America and Rambo be jealous. Batman: Arkham City is about being Batman.

If you doubt Batman's not going to win, you are the worst predictor of everything.

This perspective is enjoyable, but often it can be limiting in narrative. No one is going to think that Batman won’t get all the criminals in the most BA way possible, and the most interesting part of the first Modern Warfare is when your character is revealed to not be invincible.

I mentioned in my last post that I loved how The Walking Dead humanizes the player in a way not common to games. This humanization makes the game tense and the choices meaningful because your character could mess up at just about any moment. The earlier Splinter Cell games made the main character seem like an older man who actually had difficulty being silent, which made actually going through a level silently all the more significant. And right now, I am downloading Spec Ops: The Line, a game I hear forces the player to face the consequences of their actions and analyze themselves in a different way.

Look for a piece on this in the future.

So my question to you is which do you prefer? Do you enjoy the games that empower the player or the games that humanize the player? Let me know in the comments below.

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