Can We Get Rid of the Phrase "Open World" Already?

By: Chris Giordano

With the ever-diminishing limitations and graphical fidelity that the newest generations of consoles have to offer, there has been a common theme that I've been able to string together among most AAA games that have come out in 2015: they all feature an open world. It's a gamer's paradise, really. Open world games give the player liberty to do a multitude of things they want in whatever world they’re placed into; whether it be Dying Light's Harran, Persona 4's Inaba, and even to a lesser extent, certain regions of The Last of Us. It truly has emerged into something that has become standard in video games today. So I beg to ask the question, does the term "open world" even matter anymore? Or is it simply something that we've come to expect in video games today, especially when considering the massive backlash that explicitly linear games, such as The Order: 1886, receive.

    Personally, I think the phrase "open world" should be rid of completely, simply because it appears that every triple A game - with a few exceptions - has an open world at this point. I mean, just look at some of the biggest games that have come out and are slated for release this year. Dying Light, The Witcher 3: WIld HuntMetal Gear Solid V and Fallout 4 all feature an open world that gives the player full liberty and the power to literally do whatever they want in their respective worlds.

In Batman: Arkham Knight, you truly are Batman. Traverse Gotham City as you please, Bruce!

    But, really, what constitutes something as being open world? The term is typically associated as a "term for video games where a player can move freely through a virtual world and is given considerable freedom in choosing how or when to approach objectives, as opposed to other games that have a more linear structure.". I swear, this describes every video game out right now, right? You can look at any video game out right now, with a few exceptions, and consider it to be an open world video game. Look at The Last of Us for example. The story is undoubtedly linear, but there are some levels in the game that I would consider to be open world because of the exploratory qualities that they possess. You're not asked, but you can explore some little sections of levels to find comic books for Ellie, find extra ammo, unlock shiv doors, etc. So although The Last of Us isn't considered to be an "open world" game, there are definitely some aspects of the game that take, for lack of a better word, inspiration, from "open world" games.

    I think it simply comes down to what players want in the end. Times are tough, the economy isn't great - especially here in Toronto, if I'm paying $75-$80 CAD for a video game, it better be worth it -  so people want something substantial to get the biggest bang for their buck. And I think that the developers are starting to understand this. Honestly I feel that this is something that gamers have come to expect in a game today. As gamers, we want something that will keep us enamored with a game and to keep us locked into the world as much as possible. Developers now design games to satisfy this need. They want to keep players invested in their game for as long as they possibly can, so they'll create a game that is so vast and with a whole bunch of things to do in order to keep the investment and the gamer hooked as much as they can.

So, if we get rid of the term "open world", what do we call these games? I appreciate the term "sandbox" or "free roam" games, pretty much because I feel like that explains the genre much better than calling it an open world. But let's scrap that too. With how far we've come in the video game field, I feel as these are secondary terms and don't really mean anything to the game itself. Assassin's Creed is an action game. Arkham Knight is an action/adventure game. Fallout is a shooter. The Witcher is a role-playing game. And again, what's the common thread amongst all of these games? The fact that they all possess an open world, giving players the freedom to do whatever they want, when they want, and how they want.

Source:  Ubisoft

Source: Ubisoft

The world is yours in Assassins Creed: Unity.    

In my opinion, that's how games should be now.  Video games have become such a powerful force in media as of lately that I see it as "the bigger, the better" scenario. The more freedom and options that developers give a player in a game, the more enjoyable and memorable the game will be. Just look at what Telltale Studios has been doing with all of their games recently. Why do you think people love their games so much? It’s because they give the player full opportunity to save, kill, and respond to their characters however the player chooses to do so. The bigger the world, and more dense that it is, the more enjoyable the game will be. Because players will be invested and keep on coming back to play in order to continue to explore the world and get to see everything the world has to offer.

    So I say we break that wall down. Who cares if a game is open world or linear? As long as the game is enjoyable, and speaks to the gamer in a certain way, then the game is a winner.