Choose Your Own Adventure

The Choose Your Own Adventure genre is one that has become increasingly prominent in the video gaming industry. Whether it be small indie titles aimed at giving the player an alternative or mind-bending story-telling experience, a sweeping RPG (role-playing game) designed to give the player the freedom to build out a uniquely custom character and story-line, or a AAA title with a few spaced out choices that allow the player to take different approaches to gameplay, the industry is beginning to more commonly make use of the very nature of player interaction by including elements of choice. As an individual that appreciates an engaging single-player campaign and the escapism that a nuanced narrative can provide, I am a fan of the idea of choice but often find myself paralyzed for fear of the consequences connected to said choice. In my own experience, many long-form single-player games that attempt to include choice may only do so sparingly. For example, in the case of dialogue options, most player responses will not affect the story, but if they will, there tends to be one good answer, one that won’t affect the story, and one bad choice. Most times, the choice between good and bad is obvious, and I may move forward without hesitation. But I am often forced to choose which character has betrayed my fellow characters, which should die, whether the evil character deserves to be punished for their misdeeds, and so on. In these circumstances I find myself saving my game, making my choice, and then re-loading the game if I don’t like the outcome, or even worse, looking up a gameplay walkthrough to find out what the consequences of the choice might be so that I might get it right the first time. You see, most games provide various endings, most of which are viewed as “bad endings” with the exception of one “good ending.” I find myself harboring deep anxiety over the prospect of receiving a “bad ending” and will do anything in my power to make the “right” choices in order to gain access to the more favorable ending. But this type of narrative progression would seem to make the fundamental element of choice moot, would it not? Why are some choices determined “right” or “wrong” by the consequences they bring about rather than the moral implications of the choice itself? And why, if we are to make too many “wrong” choices, are we guaranteed a “bad ending?” Don’t people who make “wrong” choices sometimes end up leading happy lives too? And don’t people who make “good” choices often find themselves miserable? I look forward to using a video game for my Choose Your Own Adventure analysis and being forced to separate myself from these anxieties and look more deeply at the way choice functions within the genre.

English + Political Science double major