With this year’s E3 approaching, developers are assembling their biggest and best games to announce, with many open-world designs likely to be showcased. It’s one of the most popular genres out there – but why do we love it so much?
An open-world game is one that lets a player run free in (often massive) fictional worlds, giving them unrestricted exploration of every inch. As a design, it’s hugely successful. Bethesda’s best-selling and second best-selling games are both open-world (‘Skyrim’ and ‘Fallout 4’), with players eagerly waiting on the next releases of both series.
Most likely, the reason we can’t get enough open-world is the freedom. It’s what makes a game like ‘Skyrim’ so enticing – nowhere is inaccessible. You can climb every mountain, hike through every forest and explore every village. On paper, it sounds like wasted time interacting with lifeless pixels – but in practice, it’s not just that. Maybe it’s the countless handwritten books, the individual personalities of every non-playable character (NPC) or the sheer scale of the surroundings – maybe it’s all three and more, but the universe comes to life. If you read a book, the same thing happens, except you create the universe yourself.
The NPCs in ‘Skyrim’ have all kinds of scripts, temperaments and quests, adding a sense of community to an artificial world.
Real life is not unbound freedom, unfortunately. There are rules, routines and schedules almost everywhere, with little to explore. To play an open-world game is to step into an alternate reality, with the definition of freedom surrounding you.
You don’t even have to be yourself – you can be someone else entirely (and that might be what a lot of people want). In ‘The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’, you play as Geralt of Rivia. You assume the identity of the ‘Witcher’, travelling vast landscapes and defeating mythical creatures. As in ‘Skyrim’, the NPCs are the icing on the cake, with believable voice acting ensuring you feel genuine emotions towards what are, effectively, digital hallucinations.
‘The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’ combines stunning graphics with realistic characters to act as the perfect escape.
Whilst the modern day provides huge conveniences (cars, planes, phones etc.), there’s nothing quite like going back in time. Most open-world games are set in times gone by, where swords are your main weapon and armour is worn more than it ever was in reality (they usually just never take it off). This provides a weirdly nostalgic thrill, even though we’ve never lived in such far gone times.
Maybe that’s a key reason why open-world games are so popular – they’re set in simpler times. In real life, there’s so much going on every day that we don’t always get a chance to fully relax.
It’s understandable why players would want to be able to unwind and experience what it feels like to truly be in control.