Role-playing games isn’t just for roleplay games

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Just the other day, YouTube and Twitch streamer Jimmy Broadbent posted an introduction to an upcoming sim racing series where he is going to race one of my employers old titles; F1 Challenge ’99-02. The difference between his introduction and a more common ‘Let’s Play!’ is that he said he was going to roleplay.

Am I the only person who thinks this is how you should always play games?

When I completed the Grand Theft Auto V’s storyline, I did it with my own set of morals, but also with the morals of the characters. I don’t care to go around killing innocent people, etc, and while I have nothing against it, I went into the game as my own character, but also using the clearly defined characters Rockstar gave us. When you don’t do that, the game doesn’t seem as engrossing and the storyline as involving.

When you play GTA you generally see the good side of the character, regardless of what they are doing. The story is written that way. When you think about what they’re doing? They’re murdering people, killing guards, hired security, police, even random civilians somehow connected to events. When I am playing, I make those kills, but I don’t mow down people on the sidewalk just for the hell of it, that isn’t who these characters are written as. Trevor, in GTA V, for all his craziness, never kills for the sake of killing, he kills for his reasons.

What is interesting to me, is that it seems like some people felt this kind of connection once GTA V introduced a first person view. I’m surprised people actually needed that to make a connection… It has become obvious to me lately that not many people seem to play games like I do… Is it because I am old? It is because when I started playing games, the story was a lot more simple, and you had to partially invent your own?

A great example of where you have to invent your own story is a completely open experience like Elite: Dangerous or even EVE-Online. YOU decide who you are going to be. With EVE, if you don’t decide what you’re going to be early enough, you’ll waste days training useless skills. With ED, it’s far more complex even than that…

I see a lot of negative Elite: Dangerous reviews where people say it is boring, that they have a hard time progressing, understanding progression, etc. I think in a lot of cases this might be down to players failing to define who they are, who their Commander is, what their path is going to be.

If you fly around the galaxy aimlessly doing missions for a never ending stream of factions, you’re not going to build enough of a relationship with any to progress in any meaningful way.

If you don’t develop a sense of morals, a limit to your involvement in Slavery, Narcotics, murder – all the things a person might choose to limit their involvement in – then of course the related storylines will not appeal to you.

I’ve been playing Elite: Dangerous as a character: I thought about my back story and I developed a hatred of both the major superpowers because of what I decided to be an Alliance background. I made myself a ‘home area’ in the Galaxy and I quickly built relationships and standings with local factions… Some of them love me, some of them hate me (I am attacked on-sight by a couple of criminal factions in both Lave and Zaonce systems). I’m basically playing the game as if the galaxy were real, my Commander has emotions and feelings, etc. I am basically writing my own story – and that’s why I find this open-world game both appealing and morally challenging.

I have a friend who doesn’t play GTA or Elite in a way that I used to be able to understand, but now I do… He would stop at stop signs, obey laws, and in Elite he would just fly around enjoying the sights of the galaxy. Why? Because that is who he is! He’s playing the GTA city or the Elite galaxy as if he were in it. In reality, what is the difference between him doing that, and me driving to the local aquarium or electronics store for nothing more than the fact that I like being there?

I realized recently that I’ve been role-playing in games for a long time. As a teenager I would get the results from the latest Formula One or NASCAR race, and I would edit the A.I. in the racing simulation I was playing so that the next race I did, usually full length and lasting hours, they’d finish in a relatively realistic order with me inserted into that event. I’d develop make believe rivalries with particular drivers, and it would genuinely make the races more exciting. Somehow that particular driver would always end up around me in races…

I’m excited to see just who is Jimmy’s (or his character’s) main rival by the end of his ‘career’… I’m also excited to find out more about who I am going to become as we move forward in the 33rd century of the Elite galaxy…

I genuinely think that if you want to have more fun, feel more engrossed and ultimately experience all a game has to offer: Roleplay!

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Gaming Category Information

I began my gaming journey via the family Commodore Vic-20, then later with my own C-64 and Amiga A600. These systems kept my attention until I moved up to PCs around the Windows MS-DOS Pre-Windows 95 era, which means I never really got into the console gaming market in a big way.

My parents spent a significant amount of time sharing my early gaming experiences, and this really helped foster my interests. I discovered racing games and space games for the first time, and those are still my main genres of interest to this day.

These days I use gaming to try to escape from the pressures of real life. I also occasionally upload or stream gameplay to YouTube and Twitch, and rather than doing this to instruct others of the best way to play, I do it because of the social interaction with viewers and other gamers.

Left: Monkey Island 2 Special Edition (a remaster of the original Amiga and PC-DOS classic).

 
 
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Tim is British and lives in the United States with his wife and kids.

He works for software developers Image Space Inc. and Studio 397 on their racing simulations, and is a fan of Gaming, Motorsports, and photography.