Godfather is a game based on multi-million dollar license. I haven’t played the game, but the reviews I’ve seen have been somewhere around ‘good’, but not exceptional.
But the one thing that gets praised in the reviews is the freedom: you can interract with in the game quite freely. The game has an open-design world for you to manipulate – to a certain point.
Oblivion is big & hyped game that got great ratings pretty much from anyone who has either reviewed or played the game. It’s said that the game has a massive world, and again the freedom to do what you want is something unseen. You can choose what you want to be, and how you want to act.
Sims (and the sequel Sims 2 and numerous expansion packs) is propably one of the biggest selling game families in this planet. And, important part is the freedom to act & play the game. Different people will build different houses, have different jobs, different decoration, different appearance – different anything. The freedom to choose (especially when you plug in some expansion packs) is once again great.
Freedom is something we might want to see also in small-budget games. I know there are some games that use open-world design. One quite good example could be the old Nethack – hack’n’slash rpg. One newcomer could be Kudos, a game where you control someone’s life. There are some, but it would be great to see more games with more freedom.
And, a tricky design issue: could casual games be designed around ‘freedom’?