MAY ISSUE: POST #5
Choices. I hate having to make choices. I’m indecisive and I feel like I’m being put under too much pressure. So why I love choices matter games, I have absolutely no idea. Maybe I just love torturing myself? I find the whole concept of these games pretty creepy too. Having that much control? Psch, it makes me uncomfortable (but they’re just so good). But anyway, in this post, I’ll be showcasing some of these games and then talking about some psychological crap.
The Dreamfall Chapters
I mention this first because this is what I’m currently playing (and I’m loving it). The choices have quite a big effect on how the story progresses, and this makes me think extra carefully about my actions and how I’m probably gonna mess up and cause someone to die or something. The game’s plot is linear, and the ending won’t change no matter what you do, but you do have to make a lot of choices which affect the stories events as you play.
This adventure game is from Norwegian developer Red Thread Games and was published episodically (there are five books that make up the game, with a few chapters in each). The game is the third in a series, and I highly recommend that you play the first two before this one. The series itself is set in these two parallel universes; a cyberpunk Earth called Stark and a magical world called Arcadia, which is pretty awesome if you ask me.
Life is Strange
If you haven’t heard of this, then maybe you need to get your ears cleaned. Life is Strange is another episodic adventure game, where you play as character Max Caulfield who has the ability to rewind time. You can use this rewind feature in the game to go back to the beginning of conversations, and using what you’ve previously learned to help you make a decision. Choices you make in the game does affect the ending, and there are a lot of short-term and long-term consequences. Something good short-term could come back to bite you in the butt later.
I never really beat games much around 3 years ago, but along with BioShock Infinite, I also managed to play through the whole of Heavy Rain too, and I did quite well, so I’m proud of that at least. I really need to play it again though, as the choices matter aspect is quite intriguing and it’s a bit more dramatic in ways.
You control four different characters throughout the game, and depending on the actions of each one, it creates a branching storyline, and also, you’re pretty much in control of who dies and who lives, which is a lot of pressure, to be honest. The protagonist, Ethan Mars, loses his son after he gets hit by a car. He developers severe mental trauma, and to add to that, two years later, his second son is kidnapped by the Origami Killer. Which is pretty unfortunate, if you ask me. So off Ethan goes to try and save his son, Shaun. There are also quick time events to keep you on your toes.
I personally have not played this but I watched my partner play it and well, apart from screaming at a few points because I’m apparently the jumpiest person in the world, it was a really great experience. Creepy too.
The game is set at an isolated mountain lodge where eight friends have to try and survive because there is a killer prancing around. I mean, why did they go to this eerie mountain lodge in the first place? Sometimes I question the common sense of these characters. But anyway, this is a game you could really play over and over again and experience a multitude of different outcomes, and if you prefer horror, then this is definitely for you.
Dragon Age Origins & II
I’m not including Inquisition because I haven’t played it just yet and I don’t want to spoil anything by looking it up, but Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II are games where your choices change the personality of your character and what happens in the game. Basically, the outcome of the games depends on who you side with, and, oh, also who you sleep with.
The Dragon Age series is a dark fantasy roleplaying game developed by BioWare, and even if the choices you make don’t really change much story-wise, it does give you a chance to decide exactly how you interact with people, and to me, that makes it really fun. For Dragon Age: II, I constantly chose the sarcastic responses. It was very satisfying.
I haven’t played too much of Fallout yet. I own the first three games on Steam and also Fallout 3 on the PS3. I’ve seen a whole playthrough of Fallout: New Vegas though, if that counts for something. If you know anything about the Fallout series, you know that you can dumb yourself down by putting no points in intelligence and that you can just well, shoot people I guess.
Fallout is a post-apocalyptic role-playing series, and from what I’ve read, the choices you make in Fallout are an illusion of choice, and nothing really matters. You can be a really greedy asshole and steal lots of money and then destroy a town and kill lots of people and hack all their computers, but I mean, if that’s fun then what does it matter? Right? Oh boy. I think I’ll just add an amusing picture to justify adding this to the list.
It’s hard to mention this game because it’s a game series I’ve been meaning to play for the longest time but I just haven’t got round to it (although I say that about a lot of games). I mean, I’ve played the beginning of the first games enough times to be able to recite it. But anyway, Fable is an action role-playing series where you can make your orphaned character a hero or an evil git, or someone in between.
I mean on Steam it even says ‘FOR EVERY CHOICE, A CONSEQUENCE’ so, you know, that gets the brain thinking I suppose.
Games I haven’t played that are choices matter games include:
Beyond: Two Souls
Mass Effect (I really need to play this)
The Walking Dead (I really need to play this too)
Tales from the Borderlands (I didn’t actually know this was a choices matter game. It’s another game I refuse to look up because I want it all to be a surprise. Again, another game I really need to play.)
I know I’ve missed out a lot because I haven’t had much time to look at indie titles or, well, just other games in general. I’m getting on it though, so I’ll probably do another post like this soon. If you have any recommendations, please let me know!
Emotional Effects of Choices Matter Games
Personally, choices matter games make me feel kind of, paranoid, and strange. I remember being heavily affected by Life is Strange and sitting there for days afterward, wallowing and remembering all that I had done and the consequences. I was actually pretty spaced out. So this makes me bring forth this question, what are the effects of choices matter games on the mind?
Firstly, there’s the huge feeling of guilt. How many times have you made a choice in a video game, and then immediately felt so guilty that you had to resist the urge to reload and start again? I’m putting my hand up. This has happened to me a lot. When I get so absorbed in a game, I get attached to the characters, I pretend that I’m in that world. So when my choices affect something, and when it’s a difficult choice, (and when you’re as indecisive as I am) then it’s almost impossible to make that decision, but you have to do it anyway. At least you have time to think though (most of the time) and also, you can reload if you really wanted to, and also you just have to remember that you’re playing a game and it’s all fictional. Unlike real life, which is the scary thing.
There’s also morality here then, I suppose. Some choices I’ve made in games I personally think are the right choice, but then only later do I realise that it was completely immoral, and I’m like oh, oops! I did that? My bad. But, yet again, it makes me think about real life. How many times have I done that? How many times have my actions caused other people worry or harm? It makes me shudder just to think about it. But the fact that I am starting to think more about my actions, surely that’s a good thing? Are choices in games helping players make better decisions in the real world? I would hope so to be honest.
Overall, adding choice to video games really makes games more immersive, whether it’s a good or a bad thing you have to choose to do. It makes you think, and it can provoke discussions about moral issues and moral systems, which is important (to me anyway). In real life, there are both really simple decisions to be made, where you really don’t think about them at all, and then there are huge decisions, which we would probably prefer to ignore.
With that being said, my head is kind of fuzzy right now since I didn’t sleep too well, so I can’t write as much as I would like to. I don’t even know what I’ve written here really, but it does spark my interest and I would love to write more psychology based posts in the future. But anyway, I digress, I hope you enjoyed and have some thoughts on the matter too!
Thank you for reading and Happy Gaming!