Broad agency is important to have in a video game. The ability to change your environment and change how you interact with it helps to set the game apart from how the player will experience one game over other games. That’s not to say that agency is the ultimate goal in all games. Plenty of games have very minimal agency and are still fun, ala Super Mario Bros. Agency is just another vector to follow in the pursuit of why we enjoy certain games. But the point of this isn’t to write about the player’s agency because that gets entirely too much focus. The agency of those that the player interacts with is equally important to focus on because it determines how the player will interact with the environment as well. The agency of the NPCs (non-playable characters) changes the agency of the player by changing the rules of interaction within the game.
I remember a time when I was a kid where I would go to Toys ‘R Us once in a blue moon and pick up a game, whatever looked like would be fun, meaning something Mario, something Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, something Kirby, etc… I would go home, pop the cartridge into the console and play. Then the next day comes by and I’d keep playing. Weeks may go by without touching the thing, but I’d come back to playing it at some point. I’d even go back to games rented from Blockbuster. If the game seemed like fun at the time and they had a copy in stock, I’d pick it up again and keep playing it. After some time, my game collection kept getting bigger, games kept getting longer, and my time to play them kept getting cut due to the “responsible” things I needed to get done. Because of this, there arrived a time when I would stop revisiting old games. Games that were good got revisted more often than others, but even bad games were revisited in the past. Maybe because my selection is too vast, spending time on shitty games isn’t worth the time, and the mentality of “why replay something when I have another game waiting to be played” started to become the norm. I know if I had to spend $60 on a game in my early teens, I would have kept the game in my roster continuously until I accumulated at least 20+ hours for the game, unless the game was really just horrendous. But at what point do we start to abandon the games that we buy? And why would we abandon playing the game after only completing the game once or not even finishing the game at all?