The Illusion of Choice (in video games)

I remember playing the first Walking Dead game from TellTale games. I never liked zombie games, but it was incredible. Your choice really seemed to matter. The story itself was all changed by them. I think it’s only when playing the Wolf Among Us that cracks started to show. Maybe it’s because the story of the Walking Dead is so poignant and powerful (It’s one of the most moving in any video game ever), but at the time I didn’t see thru the illusion.

I just finished playing Life is Strange 2 (Life is Strange rivals the Walking Dead and I really recommend you play it) and the first episode felt too transparent. The impact of choices seemed to be non-existent. It felt too much like determinism.

Don’t get me wrong, I know the world itself is pretty deterministic(ish) so how can one expect free will in a game that’s inside a deterministic world, but it still just felt useless. All the choice, they wouldn’t really change the story, at least ot in any meaningful way.

Perhaps part of the problem is expectations. These games sell themselves as “Story Driven” and “Decisions matter” but really, it’s the same thing as most RPGs since forever ago. Ya you make some decisions, but you know when playing Mass Effect that you won’t end up on a remote island running a bar at the end. You’ll be saving the world galaxy one way or another.

Anyways, tl;dr play Walking dead and Life is Strange, they are good stories even if free will is an illusion, but other such games aren’t necessarily worth it.

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