Choice. It can make or break a game.
I’ve always been fascinated by morality in my personal life. The ability to make choices is what separates us from the rest of the species on this planet.
But at what point is choice a burden to us in games? I found the first Fable game to be so well done because it was one of the first games in the last gen that offered a notable difference between being the hero or the villain. While your choice didn’t affect anything other than how people reacted to you, it was a great idea nonetheless.
Then games like inFamous came out.
I love being the villain. Mostly because it’s not the role all of the games that are on rails allow you to choose. There’s just something freeing in being able to take out the crowd with the bad guys and not having to worry about the collateral damage. You can just play. And, well, I’ve always been the sort of person who roots for the villains in movies. The good guys bore me.
But what distinguishes games like inFamous is that your actions affect the outcome. While I’ve heard people try and argue that they’re not good games, I’m going to have to disagree. Changing the story to suit the way you play is something special.
Of course, there are far too many games that give the appearance of choice. Games like Mass Effect. Yes, you do affect the course of the story depending on which characters you choose to be allies or lovers – but realistically, at the end of the game – there isn’t a whole lot of impact based on said decisions.
But there are also games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead. The ability to create the story as you see fit is incredible. Given how many characters live or die on your whims, I can’t imagine what the Game of Thrones Telltale game is like. This is a game that really hinges on your ability to make snap judgments and suck it up if your decision leads to an outcome that you’re not prepared to deal with.
But the question is: When is the ability to chose a hindrance rather than a boon?
I mean, if I can truly make changes to the story – that’s great. But it leaves too many questions. What’s the other side of the story like?
With the games getting bigger and longer, it means less time to do multiple play-throughs. Checking out the same story twice (with minor differences) just takes too much time. I love hunting trophies, but man, finishing the game tends to be trying enough.
The downside to the Walking Dead games is: Once you’ve started making those life or death choices, you have to be prepared to follow then through to their logical conclusion.
And then there are games, despite being amazing, write in some morality choices that basically punish you for not doing the wrong thing.
So, basically, if I murder this little girl, harvest and consume her organs, I get to front-load my super powers and rip the game a couple of new ones? Try not to scream too much while I disembowel you…The ending of the game differs depending on your overall actions. This is also one of the few games that has (sort of) a neutral setting.
Tangent: Credit goes to 2K Games on Bioshock 2. They managed to make the connection so real between you and the little sisters that I couldn’t do it. I had to force myself to swallow the hurt when you murder them for the trophies.
So, long-winded, but here it is: Is too much choice a bad thing? Should we just pick it up, beat it, put it down and move on? Should we prefer the rails to the choices? My guess is it’s somewhere int he middle. But, at the end of the day, I leave it to you gamers. The choice is yours…
– The Ego