They can do this via nicknames, RPG elements, squad mechanics
XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the newly launched strategy title, has a core story that players must progress through, but the team working on it is much more interested in offering the player ways that allow him to create his own different narratives each time they get through the game.Garth DeAngelis, a producer working at Firaxis, tells Gamasutra that, “XCOM has really forced me to analyze what internal narrative is. On the surface, it's simple; it's the story that emerges in the player's head over the course of a game. It's not explicitly written by a professional, so it isn't told to the player in a traditional sense.”
He adds, “We, as developers, just give them the framework to go wild. Now that we have incredibly advanced art, we're not necessarily relying on the players to fill in the blanks visually; instead, we should enable them to fill in the blanks elsewhere, perhaps emotionally.”
DeAngelis explains that this approach to video game development was informed by an early experience with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, where he was able to shape a situation in order to create a new narrative inside the game story.
The developer says that there’s an equilibrium that XCOM: Enemy Unknown has managed to achieve between the external story, created by professional writers, and the smaller narratives that gamers themselves create using soldier names, equipment, abilities and in-game events.
The first X-COM game, launched during the ‘90’s, allowed players to rename characters and a tradition arose where friends and family became part of the various squads.
The practice, which Firaxis encouraged for the new XCOM: Enemy Unknown, creates situations where losing a team mate is more significant because of his name of callsign.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is available on the PC but also on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.