Series such as "Bioshock" and "Mass Effect" are a reminder that video games are a powerful medium for storytelling that provide rich experiences for players. Developers spend years carefully crafting detailed adventures for gamers. These games are engaging and enjoyable in much the same way as a novel.
That said, choose your own adventure books were always among my favorites as a child. Games such as "Minecraft" and "Civilization" are the video game equivalent of those books, offering an established framework in their setting, but no story except the one that you create. Without a doubt, those games have provided far more entertainment for me than anything else. I am hundreds of hours in, and I still do not see any reason to stop playing them!
"Minecraft," a game which provides infinite building blocks to construct whatever you can imagine, has always been most fun for me when I am building interesting structures, but also when I am imagining interesting stories.
Together with my friends, I have built complex societies with rich histories using the tools provided by "Minecraft." The game does not have any form of story to it, only blocks to build with, and monsters to fight against. Still, the basic framework has allowed me to create my own adventures that are more engaging than anything a developer could produce for me.
Sid Meier's "Civilization" series provided one of my earliest gaming experiences as a kid.
"Civilization II" was the first non-educational game I ever played. Granted, my earliest playthroughs were more focused on the cheats that allowed for infinite tanks than crafting my own unique world. Mercifully, I've had some time to grow up since then.
"Civilization" offers numerous real-world civilizations to choose from, while still allowing you to rename empires, cities and military units. As someone who loves to create imaginary worlds, I love that the "Civilization" games let me forge storied empires to last the ages, in whatever way I want.
While I certainly don't discount the value of games with stories written by professionals, my favorite games will always be those that allow me to make my own way.
I can't resist games that give me sandboxes to play in, as well as the instruments to shape whatever story I want to tell and experience. I recommend giving either of these fine games a try, or any others like them, and seeing how it feels to be your own storyteller.
For those of you who fear that you lack the capacity to tell your own story, don't worry! Start with a more structured game, such as "Civilization" or "The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim," and you will soon discover how easy and rewarding it can be to do-it-yourself.
If you want to dive into some more in-depth DIY game experiences, I have some recommendations. "Minecraft," "Starbound" and "Besieged" are great options if you like to build things. Others, such as "Civilization," "Sid Meier's Railroads" and "Endless Realms" are better if you're more into the empire, or the business side of things.
In any case, get out there and try making your own way!
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