Choices are common in life, and in Videogames. The power of choice in life is what truly defines each of us as individuals, with the choices that we make reflecting our own selves. Why is it so then, that Videogames often neglect this facet of choice? Choice in Videogames often whittles down to shallow attempts to provide false agency or padded replay value. What can we do in order to provide stimulating, stirring choice? What is it that makes choice so important to Videogames? Well, let's take a look.
Let's Take a Look: Choices and Introspection
In life there are big decisions that guide how we live; what we will major in, what career we pursue, what we study, etc. If we look to roleplaying games, we see rising similarities. What race, class, and skills you choose will affect how you play the game, in turn defining either you or your character's play style. Team Fortress 2 and even the dreaded Call of Duty games exercise this kind of choice by allowing players to not only select a class, but also specific weapon loadouts that change how each class is played. This allows players to have a sense of agency within the game and lead to further enjoyment. Players are allowed to craft their own unique way of playing, and in turn are allowed to craft their own fun. This is why many different people can enjoy Teamfortress 2 in many different ways, and why Call of Duty has such a large demographic as it does.
Journey is a beautiful, engaging, and well designed game. It's only 15$ on PSN, go buy it now!
The kind of subtle choice that is required of Journey's social interaction provides a great template for games of all types. Elegant and deep choice can make it possible for art games to better explore the human condition, or for RPGs to craft more vivid fantasies, or for shooters to cater to even more types of players. While choice may be hard to implement, and requires many more resources than linear decisions and stories, allowing players to put part of their own tastes and personalities in a game is priceless. The interactivity of videogames is what makes our medium unique, and is why players should be allowed more freedom with their own personal narratives, with their own choices.
What exactly have we learned about choice now? Choice not only affects story, but gameplay, with RPGs and class based shooters presenting prime examples of genres that use choice to affect individual enjoyment of a game. Agency stems from the power of choice, from both gameplay choice and story choice, with false choice only serving to frustrate and discouraging the player. Morality cannot be measured using a dualistic approach, but rather on a situational basis. Social interaction is the deepest form of choice and shows us more about ourselves than it does other people. Most of all, we've learned that choice is what makes our medium special. Videogames thrive off of choice, and if Videogames wish to be further respected as a mature art form, deeper and more complex choice must be made. Just remember, it's always an acceptable choice, to simply take, a closer look.
Addendum: I am not a professional designer, just a struggling indie sharing his thoughts on games, so why don't you share your thoughts too? Regardless of your experience or background, feel free to add any points of contention I may have missed! Argue with me, correct me, provide examples of what I've missed. Remember, observation is better in groups!
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