Emergent vs. Progressive Gameplay?

I definitely missed my post last week…

In my defense I’ve been battling a strange flu/migraine/thing (I don’t know either) for literally all of September, and it’s taking a lot out of me. I’m hoping to take this weekend to catch up on some flashcard making/essay planning. Wish me luck!

This week’s prompt was: Can you think of a so called open world game that had elements of both Emergent and Progressive play? How did you know? How does this change your experience of a game?

One of my favourite games that straddles the emergent/progressive divide is Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 Golden. The player is thrust into a sleepy Japanese countryside where (shockingly) a murder has taken place on the first day of school. It’s up to the protagonist and his immediate friend-group to solve the mystery of the murder through a supernatural TV world (known as the Midnight Channel) which seems to be sucking people in and forcing townspeople to face their inner demons. With an average run clocking in at approximately 80 hours (I’ve personally played Golden 3 times, and each run set me back about 100-120 hours) it’s definitely as complicated as it sounds.

story1The primary gameplay splits between a friend-sim set within the countryside/high school, and dungeon crawler set within the Midnight Channel. As is perhaps to be expected by the descriptions, the majority of the emergent gameplay is to be found in the friend-sim portions of the game, while the progressive is found primarily in the dungeons. This is made most obvious by the way(s) in which choices the player is able to make with regards to how they spend their downtime (ie which friends to talk to, which after-school clubs to take part in, etc) effect gameplay within the dungeons (ex status buffs, bonus point spreads, etc). Additionally, while there are several endings to the game the order of dungeons must always remain the same thus making the actual dungeoneering progressive.

In my own experiences with the game the emergent aspects of being able to control how my character and party is built outside of the dungeons, and thus which ending I’m to receive in the end, changes the experience in that I’m hyper-aware of my in-game decisions to an extent which I don’t feel with many other games–other Shin Megami Tensei titles notwithstanding.

I’m a big fan of dungeon crawlers, and even when I’m playing something Rogue-like (which as an aside: I think is possible with Shin Megami Tensei titles, though not something I’d ever personally try) I’m not as aware of my in-game decisions because a) I’m less likely to make it to the end to begin with, and b) it’s hard to create a game with such minutiae that still seems interesting.

So tl;dr: You should play Persona 4. But honestly you shouldn’t because it’ll ruin your life.

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