I talked about something to do with you playing as the protagonist which is to understand WHY you are supporting this protagonist for his journey or mission. Now I will talk about the connection of a player to the protagonist and why it is important.
Until I decided to rent and play MGS4, my god I was blow away, Best Game Ever indeed! This right here is gaming design at a WHOLE new level.
One particular thing I would highlight that makes MGS4 triumph over majority of games is the connection between you and the protagonist.
Snake is an old man, in fact he is dying from a disease. The more you play MGS4 the more you get to experience Snake's journey and how the disease virus is taking over and slowly killing him. The cutscenes makes this really emotional and thus makes you emotional towards Snake because you feel sorry for him. A Legendary hero, dying? Much like how we felt sorry for our badass anime samurai Rurouni Kenshin in Reflection as he was dying from a disease.
The most crucial part in MGS4 was the Microwave room, my goodness as I was playing that I nearly cried because I saw a Legendary Hero who wanted to sacrifice his life for the whole world, crawling through an intense heated room that slowly kills him and not to mention his side effect disease weakening him. This is something every game should have in their Storymode, you play story mode for a purpose and the purpose being to experience This Protagonist's Story. Why are we experiencing his story? what is so good about his story? the word good is the whole point.
Moving on to GOW3 my best ps3 game and GOTY 2011. I wouldn't connect the emotional expression and appeal with MGS4 because GOW3 doesn't come close to it. But while watching the cutscene full of traitors and deceptions, you side with Kratos and you want to support his revenge.
My favourite part in GOW3 was after all the hard work Kratos did, it was all for nothing. Zeus "LOL" so loud and you could slowly see the anger expression in Kratos face. From that moment I expected Kratos to jump on Zeus and kill his ass off. I would explain the emotion a gamer would feel during this bit below, as the player would be in a "shocking" expression and immediately vote for Kratos to instantly beat Zeus to a pulp.
During other courses of Kratos journey in GOW3, the emotion for me were not expressed much. Though every time he wanted to perform the God Kills, that is when ANY player would get excited. Seeing yourself beat the hell out of Poseidon in First Person View would blow any gamer's mind. In fact these are all memorable experience and doesn't relate to Emotion Connection in games.
The formula to getting an emotional connection with the player and the protagonist is to give the protagonistfeelings. Feelings can be sadness, anger, happiness, joyful, scared and so on. The reason why I fully understand this Connection Emotion and WHY IT IS VITAL in games was from watching Asura's Wrath latest trailer. Everytime Asura gets angry, instead of me getting angry along with him, I rather get amused by it.
This is not weird and it is something that can happen in reality. Let's say you are in a class room (yea back in school days) and you see 2 students you know thus you rarely talk to; both arguing about something and ready to engage in a fist fight. You get anxiety and adrenaline would start to rush making you get excited. First of all, why should you care about one of them if you rarely speak to them? You'll laugh when one of them starts talking smack and doing less action. Accordingly if its someone you know you would try to back them up or tell them to stop and calm down.
This is the same experience with Asura's Wrath, you don't really know his back story or why you should support him nor play as him. Even if the story is about Asura's revenge against the gods for his betrayal, everytime he gets angry; you'd get excited because you are cheering for the fight and you want to see Asura kick that prick's ass.
Another example of Emotion Connection is in NG3. I remembered at Tokyo Game Show when the Consequences trailer came up. I was excited to watch the trailer after longing for new infos. Until I saw it, I felt sorry for Ryu; because this is the person I love (no gayness here), he killed so many people and now karma as taken its turn on him. Similar to Samurai X- Reflection.
It is apparent that Team NINJA understands this Emotion Connection with the player and protagonist. As they want players to experience the Journey of Ryu Hayabusa and how he would have to deal with his cursed arm. Who will die first? a mass murder Ryu or the World? (obviously you would die 100 times in Master Ninja )
Although I haven't played Metroid Other M but I believe it must be using this player emotion connection with the protagonist Samus.
In terms of Game Designing, this is something every game developers NEEDS to embrace! Third Person games can easily adapt to this, ergo it would be difficult to make an Emotional Connection to the Player and Protagonist in FPS games as well as other genres (racing, strategy). COD Black Ops did try to give an emotional connection to the player however the protagonist was really bland and you couldn't really get a feeling out of his emotion. Your overall emotion and experience with Black Ops Protagonist would be confusion, psychological twisted feelings.
Just imagine Halo 4. What if we could FINALLY get a true backstory of Master Chief making us to support his killing against Aliens. Or get an emotional feeling through Chief and why he sacrifices his feel will to fight for the Earth (reference to Spiderman sacrificing his free time to save us). In Halo 3 we could get a slight feeling of sadness and pity with Cortana. I would say every gamer would feel this, though it is something Bungie tried to achieve. And I could say the acting and role of the actress for Cortana did a great job as her voice actress.
One thing I would like to say is the mysteriousness of why we love Gordon Freeman and why we consider him a badass:/ We are meant to play or in fact be Gordon Freeman yet we value him as a Badass even though he doesn't say much or does anything.
Emotion Connection can never be achieved in FPS if "you are the protagonist". However if you play as a protagonist, you can still have a chance of getting an emotional connection with the protagonist. Yes you can get emotional connection through other characters in the game like HomeFront but this is about you getting a feeling for the Protagonist and why you should support his ideal.