The problem with choices matter video games

I’m a huge fan of the whole “your choices matter” games but more often then not you see people complaining that actually… Your choices don’t really matter.

Sometimes what they mean is basically they wanted a scene to go one way and it just couldn’t no matter what we want and other times maybe they just don’t see what changes they are enacting along the way.

So can we ever get a choices matter game that actually makes everyone happy (bar obviously the plot being perfect because no one will ever agree on stories…)

WARNING : There are minor spoilers for Life is Strange 1, 2 and BtS as well as Game of Thrones below. They were basically the three games I remember well enough to comment on but also to make my point I had to give a few plot details away.

I honestly don’t think we will.

It isn’t practical to look at a game and think that we can change it to the point that we’ll play a completely different game to everyone else. If choices truly mattered and we were littered with every possible choice you could have and the developers gave you every single outcome you could have some games would end within seconds whilst others would go on for days or weeks. People would complain “but how come I didn’t get the same content just because my choices are different?” or that one path wasn’t as well developed as another. Even if that were a option it still wouldn’t make anyone happy in the long run.

Look at Life is Strange, what is that story if you decide to let Chloe die in the opening scene? You’d have a completely different one that would have to be programmed in, it isn’t the story that the developers wanted to tell but if you had the choice it might be the story you want to see. You’d go down a completely different path or end up just being a boring teenager who put their powers to the back of their mind. You would never have gone on the adventure we were treated too, the one the developers obviously had a passion to tell, and instead you would have forced them into telling a story they might not have cared for and ended your game before it had began.

Again in Life is Strange 2 if you decide that actually I am going to hand myself into the police what would the game be? It would have been over in the first part and whilst the developers could have tried to flesh out a interesting story of Sean maybe fighting for people to believe him or save Daniel from being experimented on, something that still might happen seeing we’re only two episodes in, one side of the story would always be the story the creator wanted to tell and would therefore get the love that the other probably wouldn’t. In a similar vain I too tried my hardest not to rock the boat in the second episode because I would have loved for my game to end with Sean and Daniel staying with their grandparents but at the same point if I did then my episode 3 would be completely different from the episode 3 we are getting meaning the game would take even longer to be developed as they started creating a completely different game on top of the one they already had so that my characters could tell a different story then the one they are trying to tell.

It was a similar complaint to the Game of Thrones game. “No matter what I did Ethan still had to die” well yes because that was the story that the creators wanted and needed to tell, the choice wasn’t in whether or not Ethan lived or died but in how you had the other characters react to it and how other characters saw you react, it was about how you continued to act after the fact and what that point meant to you as a player. Whilst it might suck that you can’t save a character whether it be Ethan or Mushroom their deaths are meant to trigger reactions in whoever you are playing at that moment and shape how other characters see that one further down the road.

Again if you end up having Ethan running around in the game then the rest of the episodes are going to run at different lengths for different people, there will need to be more stories going on in the background, different branches that others can’t get too and the creators actual story is lost.

So I guess my point is that maybe you are missing the point of these games?

It is obvious that I’ve decided to write something like this after playing the second episode of Life is Strange 2 which has a lot of people upset over how they couldn’t save this character, stay in this place or do this better. The thing is the major point of Life is Strange 2 “Choices Matter” game play isn’t that you get to pick and choose whether you break into a room or not but how Daniel reacts to situations, whether he listens or not and how he treats others. The real proof of just how different the paths your choices can make is at the end when you see the amount of things that COULD happen in Daniels decisions. The difference between saying goodbye to Chris and getting his cape or Chris being run over by a car. The difference between him stealing from Brody or not. (Or seeing it took so long for me to feel confident in posting this the difference between who dies and lives in episode 3…)

For me if I had to pick so far I feel like I’m making a difference in Life is Strange 2 more then most other games like this I have ever played. Specially more so then its predecessor. I enjoyed that Game of Thrones was linear more then probably any other game of this type. I really loved that they were able to make a really interesting and fun game in Before the Storm that didn’t have to have over the top drama or super powers to make it feel that way.

I really do believe these games are what you make of them and if you actually look past the things YOU want and what the creators actually seem to be trying to do you’ll see that a lot of these games try really hard to make your choices matter but maybe not in the most obvious way.

So I guess they could never keep everyone happy whilst staying practical and having a engaging and interesting story on top of that. It is a impossible task and whilst we can complain about whether a story is good or not and we can be sad that choices we really didn’t want to make are forced on us we also need to start giving credit to some games for the times that our choices DO make a difference and maybe start looking at the more subtle ways that these choices matter.

Plus for a game that honestly feels like the world is at your beck and call you might want to try Detroit : Become Human, I wrote this blog quite some time ago and due to nerves on whether I got my point across or not saved it in my drafts. I had probably played Detroit before writing it and just blanked on the fact that it existed (or maybe not I can’t really remember) but that is a game that had so many paths you could follow, so many characters that could die or live and your choices, even the smallest of them, could effect decisions much further in the game. It was a game that had many endings, many chances to even just kill characters by accident that would see you have to restart that game to even see a tiny bit more of the main story.

I didn’t really want to delete the entire post just to redo it so thought I’d add it to the end instead.

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