Let’s Roleplay It!

skyrim
Laura Perkins, Meme Arcade

Hey Guys,

Since I’ve spent some time discussing Assessment 3, I’d like to use this post to focus on Assessment 2. In Assessment 2 I’ll be investigating how roleplaying, ie. the act of using your imagination to expand the gaming experience, not only enriches the experience for the gamer, but also for the audience if said gamer is a Lets Player. Thus suitably, I will be presenting my findings in a short Let’s Play video of either Fallout 4, or Skyrim.

My idea for the topic arose while I was creating another new character in Skyrim. What intrigued me was pin pointing what it was that kept bringing me back to the game. I have now settled with the answer that perhaps, for me, it’s to do with the idea that you’re telling a new character’s story. Furthermore, another feature that brought me back was Steam’s mod support for Skyrim. The academic Postigo, musing on the modern gaming industry states that:

game companies that tap into the talent of fan-programmers may also tap into micromarkets in gaming, smaller pockets of consumers who are drawn to a game because a mod may add an element of specific interest to a subset of consumers.

Thus, thanks to both Bethesda and Valve’s support for the modding industry, I was able to download a mod titled ‘Random Alternate Start’ which spawns your newly created Skyrim character on to a random plot of land. Thus by customising my game with the mod, I was able to tell brand new stories. One story that I remember follows my Nord Barbarian who spawned near a pirate ship. I’d decided that he’d arrived there to collect the bounty on the bandit’s heads, and so thus was a bounty hunter.

 

This notion of telling stories brings me back to Marie Laure-Ryan, who I referred to in my last post, who spoke about the idea of “internal-ontological interactivity.” This is the idea that,

The interaction between the user and the fictional world produces a new life, and consequently a new life-story, with every run of the system.

However, I want to take my investigation beyond her proposition where she states, ‘the player of a game is usually too deeply absorbed in the pursuit of a goal to reflect on the plot that he writes through his actions.’ Rather, I want to take my investigation to a  new place where the player is intentionally setting out to tell their avatar’s story.

This notion has actually complimented the online career of Robbaz, a Swedish YouTuber with a wild imagination. The video I provided comes from a series he created called, “The Sims 3: Redneck Brothers“, a series akin to any popular TV Soap Opera, just with more hairy men, murder, and Gabe Newell.
Despite his silliness, Robbaz’s videos are a breath of fresh air in the growing Let’s Play YouTube library, dominated by popular creators who post long glorified walkthroughs, and half-assed reaction videos. In fact, YouTube’s algorithms have been primed to support the careers of these popular creators. YouTube animator psychicpebbles recently explained this system in an AMA on Reddit where he explained how YouTube now rewards minutes watched, rather than views:
This means that under the new system if you upload a Minecraft lets play every day and get only several thousand views per video, you get paid more than someone who uploads less frequently but gets a million or more views per video… It is literally impossible to outpace or even match the content production level of a letsplayer or vlogger if you’re an animator… Thus, the animation community on YouTube was beheaded.
Furthermore, Good Game’s Goose also recently investigated the issue of how some Lets Players may be threatening the Indie Games market:

“In my opinion the Lets Play community have a huge moral obligation to support the medium that supports them. By uploading these 30 part full-run spoiler videos with no links, and not even a single shred of subjective critique, they’re unintentionally causing damage to the industry.” – Goose

Ironically, these Lets Players then go on to make even more money as companies begin to sponsor them. In fact, Robbaz actually gave an insight into the process when he shared a screen-cap of a conversation he had with the Ambassador of Super Geek Box. His decline was brilliant.

However, before I continue to digress, I’d like to firmly establish that as you can plainly see, I have my work set out for me. There’s a wealth of content to explore, and I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you all in Week 11.

Until then, take care.

Anthony.

Reference List

Postigo, Hector (2007) “Of Mods and Modders: Chasing Down the Value of Fan-Based Digital Game Modification.” Games and Culture 2: 300-13.

Ryan, M.-L. (2001). Beyond myth and metaphor: The case of narrative in digital media. Game studies. The international Journal of Computer Game Research, 1,1. http://www.gamestudies.org/0101/ryan/

6 thoughts on “Let’s Roleplay It!

  1. Hi Anthony,

    I think when faced with games like Skyrim or Fallout, where you are faced with the endless character customisation options and levelling systems and so on, we seem to find ourselves more invested in the game, and the fate of our character. The replay value IS in creating a new character each time and starting from scratch. I am not so invested with how the character looks as some might be, but I find games that have intricate levelling and classing systems to have high replay value. For instance, I have played Fallout 3 and finished it like 3 times, each with a different character just to see how different perks affect how the character ‘plays’ or ‘feels’. The experience is always a bit different with each character and I find that I get that sense of progress and satisfaction all over again when I play with different characters. Perhaps what draws people to replay games like Skyrim is the idea that no two characters are going to be exactly alike because of how levelling systems and skill trees and the like work in games like these.

    Fire Emblem:Awakening (I will stop talking about it one day, I swear!) is the game I return to over and over. In it, you customise an avatar and you play through the set story, but you get to determine the class/type of the character (as well as others in the army) AND you get to determine who marries whom and who gets along well with whom. This is what brings me back to the game over and over. Not so much the set story, but the exploring of different classes that characters can be and what different relationships I can set up with characters each time I create a new save file. There are COUNTLESS support conversations in this game, so it is unlikely I will stop playing anytime soon.

    Fire Emblem, placing characters in a Pair Up together in battle…

    So that they battle together, become more familiar with each other and trigger ‘support conversations’. There are 4 types of support conversations :C,B, A, S, with S being marriage. You have to have had a C to have a B and so on.

    So, I’d say that the appeal of these sorts of games is in the amount of control players have over how their character turns out, whether physically, skill wise or relationship-wise, as well as more opportunities for story crafting on the part of the player, as opposed to games with set characters with set appearances and characteristics.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how you explore these notions of storytelling and character crafting in gaming.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! You’re totally correct, skill customization is definitely something that compliments replay-ability immensely!

      I’m looking forward to sharing my findings with you all in class, and I actually kind of want to check out fire emblem since it’s one of those games I’ve always heard about, but have never really played or seen it in action.

      Like

  2. Hi Anthony,

    Thank God I’m not alone! I’ve spent so many hours in The Sims, Mass Effect and Saints Row series (just to name a few), customising my character to the absolute limits. I’m glad to see that other people challenge the overall narrative of the game with their own “head-canon” in an attempt to personalise their experience. I’m guilty of screwing up the lives of every pre-made Sim family in The Sims 2, merely as a means of having “control” over their world (*evil laugh*).

    Even as a kid playing a seemingly closed game like Star Wars: Battlefront on the PS2, my brother and I sat down to write fictional backstories to the characters we played as. Whenever we died, we were either “injured in battle” or a new character replaced our old one. This was entirely separated from the main game, but strengthened our connection to it.

    It’s interesting that you mention Robbaz, as he seems to be part of a wider group of YouTuber’s who are using games like The Sims to construct their own narrative. I’ll give you a link to TheGamingLemon’s channel, who like Robbaz, isn’t content with the in-game narrative and insists on personalising everything from his character, right down to what he calls the NPC’s. What’s interesting about this particular video is he is taking a character (Nigel Thornberry) from a completely different medium and blending the two to create his own take on The Sims world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoXHqk9ltNA

    I think what makes these types of videos great is it stretches the overall meta story of the game. In a way it makes the limits of these games seem further away and transcends them, as the player has the opportunity to come in and fill the space with their own story.

    Either way, a very interesting topic Anthony. You’ve addressed this well, and looking at the comments, have also provided quite the discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent comment! There has to be a proper term for the activity, but it’s so nice to hear that you also like to bring your imagination into the mix as a participant as you game! I’ll definitely check that guy’s videos out, it’s nice to see that there’re more lets players trying to be creative!

      And Saints Row is actually a fantastic game to roleplay! And I love it how you can then totally just get plastic surgery and play a completely new character, ha!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, awesome!

    I have to agree that with these sort of games, the concept that drags me back to play over and over is the unique and intriguing back story of every character. The most interesting part is we create that most of the time. Some games dont even give you anything about your character, yet creating a new one everytime just seems like your living a whole new life. For example, Runescape. I used to be ADDICTED to this game and I used to have multiple accounts, each account having a different personality and different story being played out by my character. Its amazing how games manage to give consumers this experience.

    And your meme says it all.. why do we put so much into customising our character EVEN THOUGH WE COVER IT WITH ARMOUR? Haha its crazy but this is why! Because its about our personal experience. Its about feeling as apart of the experience as you can. RPG games have really made an interesting concept here, that really blows my mind when I think about it. How involved we are, how invested we are. And I love it personally. I think it really gives people a sense of belonging especially when it comes to games like Runescape or other “clan” like games where you are connecting with other people.
    Awesome blog post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s actually so fascinating! It’s incredible how attached we can get to the simulation, and how meta we can get.

    Also on the topic of armour, it’s great how some games now have the option called ‘hide helmet.’ That way you can still get the armour perks of wearing the helmet, while still enjoying your character’s beautiful face. I think Mass Effect and Dragon Age both have that feature.

    Like

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