Last week I talked about 9th Dawn and mentioned it was more about exploration and freedom than story. More about the players' story than the developer's story. Since then I've been thinking about other games, Fallout: New Vegas, Oblivion, Skyrim, Hitman, Minecraft, GTA etc. It struck me that, whenever given an open world to play in or the freedom to approach tasks in a number of ways I become more invested in the story I can create for my character than in the story the developers are trying to tell.
In New Vegas I was the Angel of Death, I slaughtered Goodsprings and then worked my way through the wasteland, carving a bloody swathe of destruction on my journey to New Vegas. Upon arrival I executed everyone and everything I encountered and then I turned my sights to the NCR, the Great Khans and Caesar's Legion. Tearing through their camps, their men and their leaders. By the end of my playthrough I was beholden to no one, New Vegas was mine.
In Hitman I was a bezerker, unsurpressed, fully automatic. Every mission was a massacre, every target a bullet sponge.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not always a psycopath with a gun, in Oblivion I was a psycopath with a sword.
No but in all seriousness other games inspire me to be the hero, in 9th Dawn I happily save people from bandits or Goblins. In Shogun 2: Total War I put my people before my army. I don't care what a game tries to make me, I make my character what I want them to be and have a great time doing it.
More and more I drift away from caring about cutting edge consoles or blockbuster games. I don't care if a game is an indie darling or a Hollywood monster. I have limited free time, between work and house work, I want to spend it freely, unrestrained by a linear story, by anyone else's rules. If I feel like being a hero I'll be a hero, if I want to be a murderer I'll be a murderer. Its the games that give me freedom that I like the most.