The Dissolution of Choice, How Choices Matter in Gaming Narrative «Concluding Observations» | LinksOcarina

Posted: December 24, 2012 in Video game
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☞ Choices may be a factor in our response to narrative. But these choices are in a way determined by the writer or the producer of the narrative. Are video games different? Are the choices in a game authentic or are they actually illusory?

“…the choices given to the player are almost always an illusion to make it seem like they matter. But what makes them matter is not that they are there, but that they allow the player to feel the impact of these moments through the story. It is within choosing the Stormcloaks over the Imperials, in curing the Genophage over tricking the Krogan, in saving Doug or Carley, where the narrative takes shape depending upon our choices. But because of this seeming betrayal of trust in the audience to distinguish the two styles, the theme of choice have become a pariah of sorts thanks to this perceived notion of railroading storylines.

In actuality, that is nothing new or against the mechanical design of the choices given in video games. For story-driven games, the choices will always be tied to a plot written by the developers, but controlled by the players. The real value of this is not that the story eventually doesn’t matter, but that the journey the story takes, the changes in the narrative because of how the player controls the story, will make the experience worthwhile. It is a gamble each time, and this past year we have seen many games succumb to the wrath of players because the plot ended a certain way.

Ultimately, we need to take to heart the fact that in the end there are no true consequences, no fully changed outcomes to be gained in a fixed plot. But there are consequences in the choices made because of our attachment to them, to the characters and the often moral implications of their predicaments, that allow us to shape the eventual narrative we experience. It is through this illusion of choice where we see the crux of the narrative that gamers become attached to, and in the end the choices matter only because we made them that way. We control the illusion by making the choices, which in turn help us tell the story, the emotional meat of the experience.

So don’t blame The Walking Dead or the next game following the buzzwords of “choice” and “consequences” for eventually removing the facade of the choice in an instant. What truly matters in a narrative is not that the plot can change, but that the circumstances of the plot, the actual story behind your actions, dictate the tone of the overall experience. In doing this, Telltale Games, along with many other industry leaders can craft stories with hard choices and consequences for them. But a little give and take regarding what can be influenced, and what can’t needs to be recognized for the illusion to work its magic.”

[Slightly edited] Read more…
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