Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Illusion of Choice

Over the last few weeks, I've been blazing my way through the postapocalyptic wastelands around Boston, as I've played through Fallout 4.  As with most of the games I've played coming out of Bethesda Softworks, it's great fun to play, brilliant and well written, with a sequence of interrelated stories and a single core narrative.

It's been a hoot, only, well, now I'm reaching the end of the central story, and I've encountered one of the tantalizing limitations of this kind of game.  The main storyline branches out in a number of different ways, with different endings.  How you act and the choices you make determines how the story ends...up to a point.

And as I reach that point, the illusion of choice becomes harder and harder to miss.  Not choice, but the illusion thereof.

As the story progresses, the pre-established decisionmaking trees grow further and further away from what I'd actually select.  I'll look at the options presented to me, and think: I wouldn't do any of these things.

No, I don't want to kill that character.  No, I don't want to destroy that thing.  I want to use suasion and patience to change the story for the better.  I can see how that would work.  But I'm not given that option.

I've had this challenge with other "open" games, like in a painfully unnecessary conflict at the end of the Fallout: New Vegas expansion.  Dang it, that didn't have to happen!  I could have made it not happen!

But this being a game, and not reality, it's not actually open.

Funny, how that reminds me of American politics.