The True Value of Relationships


Once upon a time, in a land far far away… Or in New York City circa 1986, lives a community of hidden fairy tales. Here the player controls one Sheriff Bigby Wolf, or The Big Bad Wolf. In The Wolf Among Us the player follows the story of Sheriff Bigby solving a case of murdered fable character, both known and unknown, to keep the Fable community safe from the outside world and others who wish to harm them. As Bigby, the player must investigate the murders by hunting for clues, interacting with Fables, and occasionally kicking some fairy tale butt. You can even “determine the fates of other characters.” One problem that first caught my attention with the game was the character interactions. Because the video games comes from not only the Fable comics, but also the original fairy tales themselves, I found myself as a player immersed in a pre-established universe that I had no knowledge of whatsoever. How am I supposed to interact with characters if I don’t know the value of their relationship with Bigby?

You know as much as Bigby does, which is not a whole hell of a lot.

This question really impacted my gameplay. Any character I met I wanted to interact with based on my relationship with them, and the possible future relationship that I would need them for. Without any previous understanding of the characters relationships, I was left floundering around trying not to make a fool of myself. As a player, this changed how I valued each character. If they seemed like someone Bigby knew, and was possible friendly with, I aimed to be as nice and helpful as I could be. With other characters, specifically ones who seemed like I had pissed off in the past or someone who just generally disliked me, I cared less for how they thought of me. I just valued them for how they could help or hinder my investigation, though I still tried to remain on the good guy side with my dialogue choices.

Interaction with The Woodsman, from Little Red Riding Hood


At the end of the day though, it didn’t really matter what the previous relationship was with a character. All that mattered was what I was doing as Bigby in the present. If I had known this earlier on, I would have changed how I interacted with different characters, knowing that their value only mattered in the current time frame.

Dialogue with Beauty on whether to keep her secret



The relationships that I created within the games time frame did impact later decisions and gameplay options, but there was never really a change in how Bigby was viewed, which really irked me. If I am not able to change how characters understand and perceive Bigby, why then should any previous relationship hold any value in the current time line? While I do think it is important for backstory purposes, especially for people like me who had no previous Fable knowledge, including bits of it through the game dialogue just made interactions more frustrating because they had nothing to do with the current universe or problem. The value of the relationships within a game should stem from what you create within the context of the game, and not from an outside source that you have no control over. Backstory is all fine and dandy until it prevents you from doing what needs to be done.

  3 comments for “The True Value of Relationships

  1. James Rives
    April 16, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    I’m such a fan of games like these and the choice driven interactions that fuel them. With The Wolf Among Us in particular, I followed a similar strategy in interacting with other characters. You made a good point in regards to not understanding the context behind his relationships with other fables so I personally did my best to be nice to anyone that didn’t antagonize me. It seems a shame that none of those prior relationships amount to much within the story. But even still, it doesn’t negate the importance of what you’re doing in the present.

    I find it both interesting and important that we take a look at this question, though. It does seem quite easy to forget that, if you’re trying to play a game the way you feel your character would, you’d need some serious background info. Yeah, I agree with the points you made in this post and it’s definitely a side of the game I’d never really put too much thought into beforehand. Interesting post.

  2. ppalisin
    April 17, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    Context is certainly key when it comes to A Wolf Among Us, and I admit to having little to no prior knowledge of the universe surrounding the game. It is mildly unfair of the game to convey an expectation for perfectly tailored responses when you do not know the measurements of the characters you are interacting with.

    However, that may be the point of the game itself. For the sake of the plot, and your character as Bigby, the main mechanic of the game is to interpret and respond with choices you based on the situation and your goal to solve the crimes within the Fables’ realm. A game relying on decision and choice is a test of perception, specifically your own, and it sounds like the context was centered on the moments captured within the game and whatever could be inferred.

  3. mclark6
    April 17, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    I like your take on the concept of context. I have not played The Wolf Among Us, but I always find myself struggling to immerse myself in a game when I have no knowledge of the elaborate back stories of the characters. Some games, however, handle back stories very well. For example, I really appreciate Gone Home’s management of character back stories. As the player explored the house, they learned more about the relationships between the main character and her family, but the developers managed to dodge any uncomfortable lack of context. They succeeded in this by removing the main character from their lives for an entire year — this was a necessary part of the plot line, but it created secondary effects of mystery and renewed context. I agree that, while back stories are necessary, it should be used as a plot device or something to be discovered within the game. A game shouldn’t rely on the players to understand and play according to a back story that’s unfamiliar to them.

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