A famous quote says, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities” and no where is this more true than in an open world game. By the way if you did not understand that quote we cannot be friends. The open world game has very much become a dominant force in the video gaming realm. Players are faced with more choices, more consequences and more content than ever before, in almost every genre.
If the truth most be told, open world is way better than it was in the olden days of gaming, where your path was already mapped to the finish line, alongside the challenges and puzzles you needed to complete. Take game series like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Rayman or even Call of Duty. They offer limited choice in your journey and instead take you on a linear ride of discovery that is entirely controlled by you. In essence it is similar to controlling your path on a standard rollercoaster, you can lean into the turns but you are still going where the developers want you to go. Many people pine for the game series of their youth but for the most part are blinded by nostalgia and a desire for a less, complicated time.
However, sometimes this linearity is not the worst thing that could happen in a video game. It allows developers to focus on the other aspects of the game, that also have high importance, being the story and dialogue interactions. That is not to say that all open world games have terrible stories, take Skyrim and the Far Cry franchise for example. But it seems that in many open world games, the focus is on granting choices and options for the players as opposed to if those options needed to be present in-game, or even if they could have been less dull.
In many ways the genre of open world games seems to have lost its way, the focus, like I said before, being on presenting the biggest number of in-game options to a player, as opposed to quality ones. The simple fact is, if the game is not interesting, people will not play it, regardless of how ‘open world’ it is…take No Man’s Sky for example. Therein lies a problem, most AAA video games that are released in modern times, are open world, as it provides a greater scope for the story, it is easier to add content and centralises the player in opportunities undertaken throughout the gaming experience. Dishonored and Dishonored 2 are excellent examples of this, as your actions directly affect the outcome of the cities, whether everything is sunshine and rainbows or rats and plagues.
Is there a place for linearity in an era of open world games that are massive in scope? The short answer would be yes, as for one thing, not every gamer wants to explore every section of the landscape for hidden clues. On top of this is the fact that the design of the game itself and its story call for a linear style of development. There is no time to explore every cm of the universe when it is about to be destroyed with a Halo ring. Linearity is simply a tool, a unique and different style of gaming that just provides some variety.
Especially with the level of technology at the disposal of developers and gaming companies, it is easier than ever to craft a more interactive experience that involves the player to a higher extent and that is what video games have been striving to do for decades. To immerse the player. Open world games, when done right, bring the player into the digital world.
But that does mean that closed world/linear games have no place in the world of gaming, as it is just a different style. Linear games control the flow and ebb of the story, the emotions that players feel and when they feel them, as well as being able to be placed in a game characters shoes and experience their experiences. Both open and linear style games have their place in the field of video gaming and both convey different escapades and incidences. For example, if you are being chased down a mountain-side by a boulder or rushing down the side of a cliff on a snowmobile, it is probably not the best time to analyse and explore the surrounding landscape.