The power of choice in video games - Reader’s Feature
Mass Effect 3 – do your choices matter?

A reader examines the appeal of making moral decisions in video games, but is frustrated by how few really make a difference.

Press X to live? Or press X to die? Press X to Jason?

Do I want to be good? Or do I want to be evil?

Do I want to kill someone? Or do I want to spare them instead?

Do I risk it all to save someone’s life? Or do I just simply leave them for dead?

Morality in video games is always somewhat of a common trope. Story-based games with branched narratives and branched dialogue options are always the most thrilling and most enjoyable to play. Just the press of a button can potentially determine the fate of a character; change and alter the relationships between characters – for better or worse; and witness the various scenarios that can take place.

These games put you in the driver’s seat and allow you to steer the story in whatever direction you choose. But do choices really matter in video games?

Well, there are lots of times that choices can have an impact on the story or character relationships. A choice you make can earn the respect of another character or completely betray their trust.

It’s all about being right in the heat of the moment when making an impossibly tough choice, and you just can’t beat that sugar rush feeling from it. Making the wrong choice can eat away at you and unsettle you, whereas making a somewhat more satisfactory choice can leave you feeling extremely pleased with yourself.

But just when you think that you have plenty of free will, there is the cardinal sin in story-driven games that is false choice segments, which have been met with a barrage of criticism. For example, this trope rears its head in many games – particularly Mass Effect 3 and The Walking Dead. The latter has many scattered across its first three seasons, including the decision of who to save only to see them die anyway later in the series. You do notice the minor differences your choices make, but other than that, there’s no major impact.

Batman: Arkham City must be one of the worst culprits when it comes to false choice segments. The game is amazing, there’s no denying that. In particular, there is a scene where you step into the seductive heels of Catwoman, embarking on one of her many mischievous endeavours.

You are faced with the choice of either rescuing an incapacitated Batman or taking the stolen loot and leaving the Caped Crusader behind. But if you choose the latter option, the game takes matters into its own hands, literally rewinds and stops you from being completely callous. So, I guess I must give props to Rocksteady Games simply for that rather bold inclusion (especially being a huge shipper of the Bat and the Cat)…

However, you find you can’t get past that slight feeling of embitterment and disappointment that the choice you made had little to no impact on the story – and your favourite character most likely still ends up giving up the ghost further down the line.

The story still pans out the same anyway, taking the same linear path and I believe we’re yet to see some choices in video games make a major difference. Having said that, I still really love the story aspects within a video game. I find them extremely compelling and will keep playing them.

By reader Laura Francis

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. As always, email gamecentral@ukmetro.co.uk and follow us on Twitter.

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