Lit 80, Fall 2013

Abstract: Choice in Video Games

November 8th, 2013 | Posted by Matt Hebert in Uncategorized

Video games are often dismissed in the artistic community for being driven by player action rather than the strict vision of the author. However, the inclusion of choice enables games to leave impactful impressions on players that would not be possible with more conventional media. A film can tell you something about its creator. A game can tell you something about yourself.


The defining aspect of video games is the most crucial part of anything that might be considered a game — choice. Choice is defined in two complementary ways — by what is possible, and by what is restricted. Possibilities imbue the player with the empowering perception of free agency, offering the player a personal stake in the world of the game. When the player makes a mistake, they feel regret. This agency also comes with a sense of responsibility. The consequences of a callous decision are much more impactful when it was the player’s decision to begin with.


However, a game can also disempower a player by emphasizing the constraints they are held within. Players go into a game expecting agency. Having it removed or checked can force the player to experience powerlessness, or demonstrate when a choice may be barely a choice at all.


I will be exploring how choice, or the illusion of choice, allows games to connect with the player directly, making games an excellent tool for encouraging introspection. For my media element, I will be making a simple text-based game designed around giving the player choices and exploring their consequences.


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