Remember those old arcade games?
Eat the dots. Shoot the centipede. Whatever the difficulty, they were straight forward. You had a goal and, when you achieved it, you celebrated. How many frat boys once crowded around their Ataris chugging beer after defeating “the other solid line” at Pong? But with the recent trend of in-game decisions, video games take the player’s experience to a whole new level. It’s not about beating the game anymore, it’s about how you do it. At least, that’s what people say. Frankly, I’m tired of it.
Take The Witcher 2. The player is repeatedly faced with hard choices. Do you side with the zealous and horrible-hat-wearing Commander Roche? Or do you join forces with the murderous but misunderstood terrorist, Iorveth? As my fellow OPNoobs writer, Matthew White, mentioned in his article on morality systems, it’s the shades of gray that can make such games so compelling. Whatever you choose, you can’t make every character happy. And that’s both exciting and fascinating.
Except that, it’s not. Or at least, it barely is. Why am I playing a Witcher game? Is it for the intriguing choices that alter the story? Or is it because I feel like a badass when I’m killing monsters with a sword? It’s the sword. It feels good.
Personally, I don’t have a six-pack. I don’t kill monsters. I work at a car dealership.
It’s fun to play a game where the main character carries five feet of steel and sends leviathans to the abyss. Studies even show that playing video games boosts confidence. So when I’m running around feeling like a champ, the last thing I want is a bunch of characters sidling onscreen to tell me what a jerk I am for rescuing the princess, just because it’s not what they wanted. What is this? Get over yourself. I just saved a princess, and I work at a car dealership. What have you ever done?
Maybe that’s the worst part: I’m not allowed to make my character say what I want in response. Sometimes you feel impotent to change NPCs’ minds not because the characters’ stubbornness is so well written, but because the dialogue choices are extremely limiting, or else downright unpredictable. When I thought I was giving a Walking Dead character respect by saying “She’s the leader,” the playable character followed it up with “but she’s losing control of her people!” I might as well say nothing. An option Telltale games often provide. Thanks?
I play video games for fun.
They cease to become fun when the games themselves start nagging me for doing one thing instead of another. Let me save the princess in peace. I'm don't with in- game decisions.