To be honest, I was either going to do my blog post over the Mass Effect series, or the Pokemon series. But, seeing as how those games were taken, I'll discuss another of my favorite series: Halo. More specifically, Halo: Reach, the first chronologically released by Bungie, but their last game as a company before they were assimilated into Microsoft.
Halo: Reach is a futuristic first-person shooter that takes place in the year 2552. A hostile alien conglomerate, called the Covenant, is waging a holy war against humanity, whom they see as a blight against their gods. Humanity, outclassed in every aspect, is struggling to survive. Even so, we are losing the war. So the higher-ups in the military started using super-soldiers, called Spartans, to help combat the Covenant. And while they are effective in combat, they are few in number, and have slowly been whittled down over the years. That's about where Halo: Reach starts. The game starts with an assumed knowledge about the history of the Halo universe: that the planet Reach is destined to fall (this knowledge is referenced in Halo: Combat Evolved, the game directly following Halo: Reach). The player takes control of a Spartan as they join a squad of Spartans named Noble Team. Noble Team is originally dispatched to investigate possible rebel activity, but it quickly escalates by discovering the Covenant is on Reach.
Halo: Reach also came to mind when I was reading Jesper Juul's description of what constitutes a game. According to Juul, a game is:
1) a rule-based formal system; 2) with variable and quantifiable outcomes; 3) where different outcomes are assigned different values; 4) where the player exerts effort in order to influence the outcome; 5) the player feels emotionally attached to the outcome; 6) and the consequences of the activity are optional and negotiable. Halo: Reach has a simple concept: hostile aliens are invading the planet, and you (the player) must remove the threat. The game only has one ending, in that you must sacrifice yourself so that important resources make it off planet. These resources become key plot points later in the series. There are often several outcomes in any situation in the game, but most boil down to either the player dies, (which carries a negative impact on the player, and results in setting the player back to their most recent checkpoint), or the player survives the enemy encounter, which results in continuing on with the plot. The player is almost always in complete control of combat encounters, with their decisions determining how quickly/smoothly combat is resolved, as well as the number of times the player dies in combat. For me, it was relatively simple to feel attachment towards the characters, due to the fact that a majority of the cut-scenes were shown through first-person POV. Also, listening to my fellow Spartans interact with each other gave them a sort of humanity that the first three Halo games failed to accomplish.
I would now like to apologize for the length of my post, but this is the only way I know how to do anything requiring a keyboard and words that make sense.