Every game can be a role-playing game – Reader’s Feature
A reader explains how he likes to make up his own characters and backstories for games, from Hitman to WipEout.
This guy picked up an extra shift to work the wedding of Dorian Lang’s daughter at the breathtaking Himmelstein mansion in picturesque Austria. It’s a pain in the ass job guarding the rich and famous but somebody’s got to do it and it pays well. He’d bought an expensive car, a BMW on a whim and the monthly payments are really starting to bite. This job shouldn’t last more than a day and he’ll be able to get his nagging wife off his back.
He sees a flash in the corner of his eye, in a nearby koi carp pond, he’d never seen one up close and thought he’d take a look at the oversized goldfish. It was indeed a koi its bulbous eyes gazing up sadly at him from the depths. How is this worth so much cash he wondered, shaking his head in bemusement. Before it happened, Gary thought he heard a low crack in the distance.
With a back flip, headshot, and a splash Gary Fredrickson’s bodyguarding career had ended. I love new Hitman. I love the sniper maps in particular, because they’re a nice little detour that you can take when your time strapped or in between bigger games because they’re so short. So short and replayable, in fact, that you can apply fictional backstories to some of the bodyguards to add a bit of role-playing spice to your gaming bourguignon.
I can’t be the only one who does this, to apply stories and context to games to make the experience deeper and more immersive? For example, when I was much younger I used to assign arsehole personalities to my rival anti-G racer pilots in the WipEout series. I of course was the cocky, reckless teen prodigy and my rival was either German or Russian depending on the accent I was going to butcher for the evening. Me and Dieter von Lazer had many memorable tight races before my irrepressible brilliance shone through and I squeaked the gold following a well-placed quake disrupter.
In other games this role-playing is stupidly simple, in sports titles like FIFA or PES where I create a player and become the sort of sports star ballads are written about. I created a player in something like FIFA 17 who was about 6’ 10” tall with a shock of white afroed hair, who went by the nickname of The Hippo. The Hippo was to football what Bill Shakespeare was to writing – a natural athlete with the physique of a Greek god and the determination of a freight train. I imagined him as an insecure person constantly seeking the adulation of the fans. Like a drug he would seek validation from the stands but never quite get the same hit as that night he scored the winning goal in the Champions League final, chasing the dragon but never catching its tail.
The flipside is to roleplay as the manger and try to cope with the press and egotistical players as you manage your team to a perfect season. For this scenario I always think of myself as Scottish, this is probably due to the preponderance of excellent managers who hail from that part of the world. I always loved the first season as my gum-chewing, ball-breaking manager forged in the shipyards of Glasgow. The cull of the deadwood, the big signing of a good but probably over-the-hill star, the first run of defeats, and the vindicating cup run which saves the day and turns the no-look-back corner.
Roguelikes and turn-based games like XCOM also offer the best chance for imprinting your fevered imaginings on. For me, FTL gave a great opportunity for role-playing because your little crew are fragile and transient. For each playthrough you pick up a new Blake’s 7 hodgepodge of mismatched misanthropes, who you become attached to over the seven or eight hyperspace jumps you have between the start and the inevitable pyrotechnical demise. It’s at this point I’ll allocate a name with an impossible number of vowels to any new recruit and the pilot (me) and crewmate Decaaat’tolah will begin a buddy comedy across the stars.
Ironically the only game I don’t find myself role-playing is, role-playing games. Why is that? Well, mainly because role-playing games in general tend to be very prescriptive and give a lot of guidance on what you should think and do at any one time. They may offer you two options but usually it’s between the horrible dick option or the sun shines out of your arse option where you are either a devil or angel. If a role-playing game is trying to be clever it’ll give you two options where both options are bad, and you have to choose the least bad decision, but this leaves little room for plugging the narrative gaps with your own. So I tend to try and act like I think the character would act based on how they’ve been presented to me.
For example, my Geralt of Rivia would tend to act with barely concealed contempt with some of his customers, when they tried to act like they were somehow better than the creatures they paid me to kill for them. I wasn’t accepted by them and in many ways had more in common with the monsters I was sent to dispose of and that’s the narrow lens I saw every decision through.
I’m so glad that IO Interactive kept the rights to Hitman after their break up from Square Enix. Ever since the Hitman reboot they’ve been moulding a unique gaming experience with a laconic sense of humour that I dig. I hope we get more sniper levels and that enough people buy it to allow IO to keep pumping out Hitman games.
If you haven’t got Hitman yet I can’t recommend it enough. For anyone who’s looking for something different from first person shooters and live services Hitman offers something between a corridor shooter and a crossword puzzle. It also has lots of bodyguards like Gary Fredrickson, who had just 10 more payments on that BMW…
By reader Dieflemmy (gamertag/PSN ID/NN ID)
The reader’s feature does not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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