Some say that the best video games are the ones which have a thought-out story complemented by creative gameplay mechanics which keep the pacing fresh and fun throughout the whole ordeal. Moreover, while some may agree with the statement, there has been a growing trend among single player video games, where mechanical freedom makes up the most part of the gameplay, with great success. In these games, the player is free to do whatever he desires, and is not necessarily bound to fulfill the main story quest as soon as he gets control of the character. Additionally, these titles are usually open-ended and contain massive, sprawling worlds filled to the brim with objects the player can interact with and collectibles which allows him to get around and overcome the obstacles the world has in store.
When it comes to these games, the creativity of the player is the main factor which will both drive and limit the things he can achieve. Additionally, the things he can achieve, in turn, will be directly dependant on the underlying mechanics of said game. The vast amount of freedom, coupled with the numerous set pieces which can be interacted with have earned these games the title of “sandboxes”. A typical example of these types of video games is the ever-popular Grand Theft Auto franchise where the player takes control of a character which can run, drive, and shoot his way through the city and engage in general shenanigans. The more modern GTA games such as IV and V have their own physics engine implemented, so the player can fool around at breakneck speeds and get a ton of fun from being shot out the windshield of his car after the inevitable crash against a rogue tree or lamppost. That’s not to say that these games don’t have great plots; I’ve experienced plenty of interesting plots in my 20-something years as a gamer, and I can personally attest to the quality of the stories written by Rockstar (the creators of GTA). However, a big chunk of the fun of sandboxes come from the interactions with the gaming world, and the carefully-written and engaging story is just the icing on the very tasty cake.