Video Game Choices, Plentiful But Ultimately Meaningless

As games and gaming consoles advance in social connectivity, complexity and graphical capacity they have become increasingly theatrical. One thing that really helped propel a gamer into the character’s perspective was the usage of multiple choices that had a potent effect upon gameplay, especially if it the choice you had to make had a lasting impact. In games like The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, Dark Souls I, II and III and Undertale the choices you make early on in the game effect the whole rest of the playing experience in a major way and usually those choices are irrevocable. One of the big rewards of this kind of Choose Your Own Adventure type gaming style is that, if the game was sufficiently complex, no two endings to your game would be the same. This presented the ability for you to compare and contrast with your friends to see what you missed on your first play through and also increased the replay value of the game as a whole.

Yet despite all these advances in narrative heft somewhere after the release and subsequent popularity of the multiple choice game, science fiction shooter, Bioshock, one notices a marked rise in multiple choice games but a accompanying steep decline in the impact of those very decisions. Consider the Telltale Games company which is a gaming company whose reputation almost entirely rests upon the usage of morally complex decisions within their games, such as in their Walking Dead series where players would regularly be tasked with deciding between several important characters to save during a life or death scenario. Now, on the surface, and for immediate purposes of story telling, these choices felt HUGE – that guy you’ve been helping the entire game is about to die, but so is your girlfriend! But you can only save one of them! Yet almost invariably with Telltale the actual lasting effects of the decision are effectively zero; they almost never change anything else in your play-through or have even the slightest effect on the outcome of the game.

This isn’t to say that what Telltale does is not impressive – it most certainly is – but speaking from a narrative angle it would be all the more impressive if these weighty decisions actually effected the rest of the game.