Characterization and Identification in Narrative Games

That’s an awfully long title for a pretty short post, but I wanted to make sure I wrote this down to return to later before I forget it:

I’ve been watching the HBO series The Wire on DVD lately. It’s a serialized police drama that’s more about character development and social critique than catching bad guys. One thing that I’ve chatted about with friends regarding the show is that there are so many different characters to identify with; while there are a few particularly major ones the show focuses on at times, these can include police, drug dealers, and working-class schmoes alike. I’m not very far into it, but so far at least one pretty major character has died. It was foreshadowed, and yet it still surprised me.

I haven’t really seen this kind of multi-character identification done in a video game. It’s not that it can’t be done—I hear Indigo Prophecy features something like this, so maybe I should check that out. The problem is simply that games are so oriented on “winning” that drama takes a back seat. Would people even want to play a game in which working towards a goal with one character means potentially hampering efforts with another character?