personal connections in games

This weeks class discussion engaged the topic of the level of personal connection one feels with a game. I would not consider myself a heavy gamer. I have played Halo, Super Smash Brothers, and was a Solider of Fortune nut for awhile, but I never reached a level of addiction to play any game for an extend period of time. So with that disclaimer, may I say, to me, the idea that one forms a personal connection with the identity of the character he or she plays is a little far fetched.

Maybe it is my abstraction from the gaming world that lends me to think of games on a very fundamental level. A game to me is a competition against odds to reach a certain end. In a game there are winners and losers, and with each a sense of joy or disappointment in the players ability or inability to reach an end. I do not sense there is a sense of joy or disappointment in the actual digital character one is playing. No one gets mad at Frogger for getting hit, sadness felt is a reflection of the player not winning, not mourning for the death of the frog.

Even with more thematic games, the user is still controlling the action, and therefore the performance of the character is tied to the user, not the character itself. I do not feel, as some of the readings suggested, that there is a similarity between the connections one makes in a game with movies and books. In movies and books one is witnessing an artfully designed expose of emotions a character feels given a set of predetermined circumstances. The viewer has no control over how a movie or book unfolds.

The connection I would be inclined to make is that between a game and a hypertext novel. In both cases it is the user who is controlling the action. However, the success of the hypertext novel has been very limited. For myself, it is hard to grow attached to a character if you are the one who is always making the choices. In hypertext novels and games, in a way one is witnessing oneself. Until technology reaches a point where one is fully emerged in a game world to the point where one is no longer cognizant that their life is separate, I don't think a player will be sad for the character if he or she dies in the game.

You argue that the connections to characters in novels and movies are different from those that come from the characters in games. I would disagree partly with this point because I think that the characters in video games have not been developed enough to be independent of a set storyline. For example, in Halo's single player, you play as Master Chief and you get to control his movement throughout the Halo world. However, Halo is still about getting from point A to B/killing X, etc. and the facts that Master Chief WILL get from point A to B and WILL kill X are predetermined. The cut scenes provide you with the emotions the character feels to the preterminted circumstances.
Yes, you can control HOW MC gets from point A to point B, but you cannot control the fact that he does. To me, it seems that both books and videogame characters have the same sort of skeletal predetermined conditions, that characters in each will accomplish the overarching goals set out by the authors/videogame creators.
I do agree with you the responses to in-game actions by the player are indeed different versus cut scene actions. When I escape the Halo ring, its an accomplishment for me. But it seems the cut scene actions of MC fall into a grey area of videogame story telling because I have no control, as the reader has no control in the actions of the book character.
I'm also interested in what you think about the Halo books that I've heard about. Do you think the nature of the book MC is different from the videogame MC?