A few days back, in The Best Stories, I commented on gamesradar’s list of the 15 games with (what else?) the best stories. So far, no one has mentioned an interesting point about those games.

In all of them, you step into the shoes of a pre-created character. There is no choice involved. You play Gabriel Knight, or Manny Calavera, or April Ryan, with whatever background/emotional baggage the designers see fit to include.

Some games may allow for a diverging of the plot – usually between good and evil – but the story itself is about the particular person. And to me, that is a flaw, something that takes a little bit of the edge off the playing experience.

Hey, I’ve liked the stories in a number of games I’ve done. However, as I wrote way back in I Gotta Be Me, there is a feeling of apartness when I’m running a character given by the game. No way do I ever think of it as me, be the person male or female.

Planescape: Torment had a great story. It would have been a good novel. But I didn’t like Nameless, and I didn’t much enjoy maneuvering him through the game. I could never imagine myself being him, for one thing.

Pedro mentioned the Infocom games in his comments to the “15 Best”. Many of those I found more involving, because they didn’t hand me a character, nor, for that matter, did I have to make one. Okay, the Enchanter series had you as a mage type, but it went no farther than that.

Those text adventures, among others, allowed me to feel as though I were really there, doing all those things, solving those puzzles. There was no alternate persona to get in the way.

Still, I wouldn’t say that the stories in most of the old Infocoms were better than some in more modern games. For one thing, there was little interaction with other people, and that’s what makes a good story go.

Which brings me to the question: is it possible to have a game with a good story, that doesn’t depend on handing you a pre-created character? Offhand, I haven’t been able to think of any, aside from maybe certain Ultimas. Then again, my memory chips ain’t what they used to be ;).