但玩家却从未看到Bernard。他们甚至不知道Bernard陷入了麻烦，或者也不知道他的存在。这时候，玩家可能就会感到受挫。这就破坏了选择，导致它失去了意义。比起对Bernard vs. Cindy间的选择结果充满责任感，玩家将会开始责怪游戏。“什么？我并不知道需要救Bernard！我并不想要救Cindy的！”这看起来便不再是一种选择，最终出现的任何结果将被当成是不可避免的。
最近发行的一款带有有意义选择的叙述类游戏，David Cage的《Beyond Two Souls》便是游戏玩法结果的反面例子。与大受欢迎的《骤雨》不同的是，《Beyond Two Souls》遭受到了来自玩家和评论者的鄙视与嘲笑。尽管图像效果非常显著，其游戏玩法似乎还存在很大的漏洞。
来自Ars Technica（游戏邦注：热门科技博客网站）的Kyle Orland写道：
通过为有意义的选择使用框架，我们可以假设《Beyond Two Souls》中的众多选择有些问题：它们没有足够强大的游戏玩法结果。结果这都是假设，可能Quantic Dream众多 团队已经证实了这点，也许玩家所做出的决定会让人感觉它们有更强的情感分量。
目标关卡互动选择主要是关于玩家如何改变他们的游戏世界。Lucasarts的冒险游戏便是关于挖掘游戏中双关语的深层次含义，寻找各种不同的目标以及它们的用途等。审查，打开和谈论就相当于一款射击游戏中的射击，恢复生命值和扫射。不管是Schafer（游戏邦注：现任Double Fine Productions创始人，制作了许多大受欢迎的游戏，如《猴岛冒险》等）还是Gilbert（著名冒险游戏创作人）都致力于创造目标互动关卡（目标便是创造情感和笑声）。就像在《猴岛冒险》中阅读一行对话不仅能让玩家感受到幽默，同时还能从中获得进一步前进的选择，并让他们能够深入挖掘对话在系统中的内在含义，而是否让玩家阅读对话则体现了冒险游戏故事写手所掌握的特权。
篇目1，Meaningful Choice in Games: Practical Guide & Case Studies
by Brice Morrison
I’ll never forget Boyd. May he rest in peace.
Boyd was my mate, my friend, my confidant. I trusted him and he trusted me. But in a difficult spot on the battlefield in Fire Emblem, I realized that Boyd wasn’t going to make it. He was cornered by knights, no way out. And after a few more turns, the damage was done. The character I had since the beginning was killed.
I felt terrible. Awful. He didn’t have to die – the game didn’t have any requirement that he not make it through the battle. It was my fault, needless bloodshed. He was a good, strong character with some good weapons and armor, but now he was gone.
Throughout the rest of the game I was reminded of my mistake. His brother would say, “We can do this! It’s what Boyd would want.” His friends would chime in, “If only Boyd were here, he’d know what to do.” I’d go into battle thinking how useful he would be, but he was gone. Heck, this game is almost 10 years old now, and I still remember it, despite not remembering the name of a single other character in the game.
My experience with Boyd, a virtual character afflicted by a virtual choice, taught me as a game designer what it is to create a “meaningful choice” in a game. Choices that pull at players heart strings, that make them look deep inside themselves at their own character in real life, that they remember as deeply emotional experiences. These are the designs that turn a game into art.
But how do you do it? How do you make a choice in a game truly meaningful?
Rather than take my word for it, let’s learn from the masters – 2012’s critically acclaimed Walking Dead, which I personally believe that this game is the current state of the art.
What Is Meaningful Choice?
This is one of those “are games art?” type questions that everyone has an opinion on and discussions go on forever. That’s fine, there’s room for opinion.
But for my designs and for this article, I define meaningful choice very specifically.
Meaningful choice requires the following four components:
1.Awareness – The player must be somewhat aware they are making a choice (perceive options)
2.Gameplay Consequences – The choice must have consequences that are both gameplay and aesthetically oriented
3.Reminders – The player must be reminded of the choice they made after thay made it
4.Permanence – The player cannot go back and undo their choice after exploring the consequences
If all four of these requirements are satisfied, then we have a recipe for meaningful choice. The reason that this is true is that these are the components of a meaningful choice in real life.
Think of the big decisions you made in your life – where to go to school, whether to tell on your friend, who to marry, whether to break up – all of these choices have these four components. And these are the choices that make up our lives.
In games, choices with these components will evoke a strong emotional reaction, something that players discuss and think about and remember. By making the choice meaningful, we help to make the game itself meaningful.
Let’s step through each of these four components in detail.
Component 1: Awareness
If the player isn’t aware they are making a choice between two or more options, then it isn’t meaningful.
Imagine that a player is in a game where a character named Cindy is crying for help. The player runs over and helps Cindy. At that moment, the game says, “You choose to save Cindy instead of Bernard.”
But the player never saw Bernard. They didn’t even know Bernard was in trouble, or that he even existed. At this point, the player would probably feel frustrated. This ruins the choice and makes it meaningless. Instead of feeling responsibility for any consequences of the choice of Bernard vs. Cindy, the player will instead blame the game. “What?! I didn’t know I could save Bernard! I didn’t even want to save Cindy!” It’s no longer viewed as any kind of choice, and anything that happens as a result will be viewed as inevitable.
Second, the player completely misses the experience of having to think, agonize, and decide what they would like to do themselves instead of what the game is telling them to do. If the player isn’t aware they are being presented with a choice,
The Walking Dead handles the awareness of choice through its choice interface largely pioneered by David Cage in his games Heavy Rain and Fahrenheit. Most of the time when a player is presented with a choice, they can clearly see the other options.
Exactly how much awareness you give the player is up to you.
In the Walking Dead, some choices and their consequences are obvious. A situation very similar to the example above, the player is hiding out from the walkers in a convenience store. A group of walkers breaks into the store and two characters are grabbed, and the player must choose who to save.
The player is given plenty of time to make this choice, and both characters are in the player’s field of view. This makes the fact that it is a choice obvious, so when the player picks one, they feel responsible.
The level of awareness of a meaningful choice can vary, however, long as the player knows they are making an explicit choice.
As an example, In a conversation with Hershel at the beginning of the game, the player is asked a number of questions, “Where did you guys come from?” “Are you her father?” “Who did you come here with?” It isn’t exactly clear which of these questions are significant and which aren’t. However, the player is still aware that they are making choices, even if they aren’t sure what the consequences will be. The interface for conversation makes this clear – the player is never presented with one response – always two or more.
So when Hershel catches you in conversation or in a lie, then the the player feels like it was their fault. They saw that they could say, “I was alone” versus “I was with a police officer”, and so when Hershel reprimands them, they know that it was their decision.
Component 2: Gameplay Consequences
Imagine you’re playing a game and you get a treasure chest. Inside the treasure chest there are two items:
1.A new sword that is more powerful and will defeat two-hit enemies in just one hit
2.A sword that acts the same, but it’s a different color than your current sword
Which would you want? Obviously you would want the first sword, because it has gameplay consequences.
Gameplay consequences don’t just change the signs and sounds of the game, they actually change the behavior and actions of the player. They don’t just make the game look different, they make it act differently.
The best meaningful choices have both aesthetic AND gameplay consequences. Changing the experience of the game, the behavior of the player, is typically more meaningful than just playing the same game with different set dressing.
In the Walking Dead, there are numerous gameplay consequences from the player’s choices. Deciding to back up Kenny in a fight he’s having with Larry affects how he feels about you. In a fight in the convenience store, backing up Kenny means that later he helps you when you get into a scuffle with Larry. It also affects whether or not he decides to go along with your plans.
True to the premise of the games, the choices you make have ripple effects until the final episode is complete.
For a poor example of gameplay consequences, one of the more recent games in a narrative genre dealing with meaningful choice was David Cage’s Beyond Two Souls. In contrast to the critically acclaimed Heavy Rain, Beyond Two Souls drew scorn from many players and reviews (Score of 71 Metacritic, versus 87 for Heavy Rain and 92 for Walking Dead). While the graphical effects were phenomenal, the gameplay seemed by many to be lacking.
Kyle Orland from Ars Technica wrote:
I rarely if ever stopped to consider a choice in Beyond: Two Souls…Instead, I mainly sleepwalked through a seemingly endless sequence of practically preordained story beats, struggling to care as I was dragged through a clichéd plot with no sense of meaningful agency.
Making a choice of whether to talk about Ellen Page’s dress versus the guests has no result other than changing the dialog for that line. The rest of the game is the same.
By using the framework for meaningful choice, we can make a hypothesis of what was wrong with many of the choices in Beyond Two Souls: they didn’t have strong enough gameplay consequences. While it’s all conjecture, perhaps if the team at Quantic Dream had improved this, maybe the decisions players made would have felt like they had greater emotional weight.
Component 3: Reminders
Regret is a very complex human emotion. The regret of letting old friendships slip away. The regret of having worked too much and not spent enough time with family. The regret of having never went for your dreams when you had the chance. Regret is the combination of disappointment and responsibility, the sadness that comes from the present not working out as you wanted because of choices in the past.
Pride is the opposite of regret. Pride is when you feel elated because of a choice you made that has resulted in the outcome you wanted (or better). It’s being proud that you decided to marry the person you love. It’s being proud that you chose one job that turned out great. It’s being proud that you made the right decision.
These stories of regret and of pride are the stories that make up our lives.
However, if you don’t remember your previous choices, then you will never feel pride or regret. Or if your previous choices don’t affect your present world, then you will similarly not feel anything.
In Walking Dead, the player is constantly reminded of choices that they made in the past. “You never backed me up!” yells Kenny. “You weren’t able to protect her at the Motor Inn”, says another character later on in the game. The choices that you make not only affect the moment, but the long term relationships that you have with other characters. If Telltale hadn’t put these reminders in, then many of the choices would have meant nothing to the player.
By sprinkling reminders through the game of what choices the player made previously, the choices take on more and more weight. As the player goes forward in time the same old choice affects more and more of their experience, imbuing it with meaning. If you made your choice and then went on without even remembering it, you would never later feel regret or pride. You’d just feel nothing.
Component 4: Permanence
At the end of Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door, the final boss asks Mario if he would like to turn evil and join their side. The player can choose yes or no.
If you select yes, the final battle commences. However if you choose no, then the player simply gets a “Game Over” screen and is reset about ten seconds backward.
No one talks about this as being an incredible ending that reveals something about your own moral fiber. If they remember it all, they talk about it being annoying. The fact that you can go back and change your outcome immediately turns what could be interesting gameplay into a boring formality.
The reason that choices in real life are so fraught with emotion, with sadness, with purpose, is because they are permanent. We can’t live our lives over again. In real life, you can’t have a fight with your significant other and then rewind and do it again. You only get one shot, which is why you need to choose your words and actions very carefully.
And yet in games where you can reset, you have no problem blowing up buildings or attacking innocent bystanders with no hesitation.
Walking Dead handles this by using autosave functionality. As soon as the player makes a significant choice, the game locks it in so that they cannot go back. Thus, with every choice you make, you need to be sure it’s what you believe.
Sure, players could restart from the beginning or reset the episode, but the added inconvenience is usually enough to deter them.
I hope this framework is useful to others. If you can make sure your choices in games have all four components, then I believe they will carry enormous value to players.
As I mentioned earlier, there are likely thousands of variations and permutations on how to create meaningful choice, this is just one that has been helpful to me that I see over and over again in successful games.
I do believe that games are art, and the deeper games can probe into emotions normally reserved for film and literature, the better. By making games that cause players to make choices that cause them to evaluate their character as a person, to take the lessons of the game and apply it back to their real lives, we as game developers will have done something very special.
篇目2，The Power of Choices
by Randy OConnor
It’s been suggested that true games give the player rather than the designer power over emotion. But I don’t believe that’s true. It’s how much choice we give players, what that choice affects, and how the choice is resolved that gives us as designers power over a player. We present choices, and the manner in which we do so determines how they will emotionally respond.
First there is the player-system interaction. For example, a racing game is heavily about player-interface-interaction. The choices are about mastering the system to a desired outcome. The choice lies not in deciding what to do, but how to do it, and the emotional power of this design is in the mastery of a system, knowing what is the right choice and being able to choose correctly.
The designer chooses how to challenge this mastery, but Call of Duty employs the same emotional design principals as racing. Mastery of the system, knowing and learning how to correctly interact creates a certain player response, it allows players to feel pride, exhilaration in those moments of choice, or anger at oneself for failing to master technique. Can it possibly create more emotional response than that?
This mastery of systems includes other games like Starcraft, wherein any great player learns hotkeys, learns what to build first, necessary techniques that open up more choices further in the game, choices that in Starcraft are still limited by the necessity of victory.
The Breadth of Choice
This is how the choices we make mean within the overall systems of the game. There are narrative systems and object interaction systems, these are the two functional game elements, and both of these systems are important if the designer so chooses. The narrative is the context and aesthetic, the object-system-interaction is the functioning of the pieces within a game. This is how much choice we give a player over the systems that run a game and what the style of that choice is.
Object-level-interaction is the choice of the player on how they alter their world. A Lucasarts adventure game is usually about discovering the depths of the wordplay, the disparate objects and their uses. The inspect, open, and talk are equivalent to the shoot, pick up health, and strafe of a shooter. Schafer or Gilbert or another is working at an object interaction level where the objects are about creating emotion and laughter. Reading a line of dialog in Monkey Island lets you see the humor of the line and gives you the choice to even go further and see what that line means within the system, but reading the line alone is the power of an adventure game writer.
And therein lies the power of the designer. In an adventure game, how often are you given the choice to punch a character? Is that a function that makes sense within the system? The choice to not let you do anything but walk and talk and use miscellany to progress the story is a specific adventure game choice that seems almost necessary because it’s so common.
Genres grow up around these concepts of presumably stable and clear systems. I have compared Waking Mars to Metroid in world structure to some people, because that’s what they understand, but it’s a grossly inappropriate comparison in every other regard.
Shooters all have cover systems now, because that’s just what you do, it’s a system that has been agreed upon. I have mentioned multiple times that I’d like to see more done with wider physical interaction systems. Have people made games where you fumble with your ammo clip, where handling your equipment is as complicated and taxing as shooting? Far Cry 2 has your guns jam, to make the guns themselves mean a little more, but did it go much deeper? If you made me fumble with reloading, you would create different emotional cues that might go in new directions. We have reached the end of the line on shoot or don’t shoot, we know the extent of that emotional power.
How about Sim City, the creation and destruction of cities, the breadth of our choice. It’s creativity and destructivity, and upkeep, choices we make not with a goal of forward movement through a linear story, rather choices Wright made that asked what you wanted, and what will you do to keep your dreams afloat. Is it possible even to do so?
And the Context of Choices is the great frontier of game designing emotion.
The context of choice is this idea that what we do within a game means or doesn’t mean something. There are positive/creative choices, there are negative/destructive choices. There is the lack of choice when we want choice, there is too much choice when we’re tied down to a narrow context. Sim City has some scenarios to give context, but often it’s about creating our own.
Dys4ia by Anna Anthropy is great, and I love it exactly because it seems to me that the designer has chosen to limit your choice within the context of the story. You have these chapters you can play in any order, sure, but life itself when you get to the living of it, we can’t help what happens. Whenever we’re given any power and control at all along the path it is almost surprising. The “choice” of taking your pills is jarring, and how much choice, I wonder, do we really have?
GTA IV bothered me because the context said that I had no choice, and yet the system was wide open. I would be joyriding and ignore a call from Lil Jacob only to see a little thumbs-down appear for ignoring him. I felt like I was punished for embracing the over-arching systems the game encouraged. There was so much story to go through, they didn’t want me free-roaming the city. Their story wasn’t dynamic enough to uphold the beautiful and expansive and physical Liberty City. The context of my choices pushed me away from that game, disheartening me. I dropped the game because after 10 hours they had too successfully captured the responsibilities and pressures of real-life, and I didn’t care anymore as I had with GTA 3.
And I always return to Minecraft, because it’s always so beautiful as the example. Every choice means something. It has internal context. The context of every action builds into an open narrative that is yours. Your world may not mean much to someone else, but that chip in a stone wall you made digging some coal to create a torch has a story. The context of a choice is internal to you, yet the game rewards play by making every choice reflected in your environment. Everything is earned. Sacrifices are rewarded, mistakes are rewarded, wandering off the beaten path shows you all the more environment that you might get the urge to affect.
We give the same set of choices in almost every game we make: run, crawl, jump, shoot, build structure, collect item, but that’s only a part of it. Minecraft’s power over me is that the choices are often both negative and positive, build structure is part of collect item, and the emotional control that Markus Persson exercised over his game was limited, but he reimagined what those choices mean.
We can break so many more emotional boundaries if we recognize that the choices we give create emotional spaces. It’s not enough to shoot or not shoot. Have we ever actually let the player put down their gun and start TALKING to the enemy? Will we ever give Gordon Freeman not only a crowbar but a voice?
篇目3，The More You Know: Making Decisions Interesting in Games
by Jon Shafer
Knowledge is power. Game designers ignore this old adage at their own peril. As developers we want our games to empower people to live out their fantasies, but all too often the games themselves get in the way.
Whether in games or in life, we’ve all experienced that uncomfortable feeling of having no idea what to do. Most games require players to make a vast number of decisions, and if they’re not provided enough information to make those choices confidently, the end result is nearly always frustration.
In this article we’ll examine in detail the role of information in games, why meaningful choices require context and the consequences of omitting it. We’ll also look at a few examples of how, in unique cases, hiding some things can actually make a game better.
A designer’s goal is always to make every decision the player faces interesting. An “interesting decision” is when a player has two or more options which are (roughly) equal in value over the long term. Conversely, there are two main factors which can make decisions uninteresting: when one option is clearly better than all others, and when the consequences of the options are unclear.
If someone is confused by a decision, their feelings toward the choice will range from ambivalent to annoyed. With no context, they’ll simply choose the option that is easiest, sounds coolest, or (gulp) is first in the list. It’s impossible to be heavily invested in such arbitrary decisions, and if the excrement hits the fan later on, they’re much more likely to blame the game than themselves.
After people fail, the goal should be for them to think, “Dang, I really should have chosen X back there instead of Y. Let me try again and see if I can do better.” This only happens if players feel like the game was fair and sufficiently prepared them for what was to come.
If you want players to really be making strategic decisions, then the mechanics of the game need to be laid bare. For example, a game with upgradeable equipment needs to fully explain the consequences of equipping a weapon.
Knowing how much more damage you’ll be doing is much more useful than being told the player’s mysterious and arbitrary attack value is increased by 5. Five what? It’s not a big deal if all you’re dealing with are weapons with a single attack value, but what if you have to choose between a +5 attack weapon and a +7 defense shield? How does one compare their value without a full understanding of what these stats actually mean?
Another major issue with making uneducated choices is that it’s hard to get excited about them. You feel a real sense of progress knowing your old weapon did 10 damage per swing and could kill those monsters with four hits, but that new one you bought does 16 per hit and can kill them with only two swings. Just knowing that now you’ll do “more damage” doesn’t provide quite the same thrill.
When you know exactly what’s going on, that’s the point at which a game really takes off. This provides the opportunity to start making plans, and the trade-off between short-term and long-term interests becomes a very tough call. If players are able to reach this level of comfort, they’re likely to stick with a game for the long haul.
While providing players with as much information as possible is usually ideal, there are situations when it can hurt a game. One such case is when the players have perfect information — that is, they know everything there is to know.
A good example is the game checkers, where the entire board and all pieces are visible. There are no elements of the game itself which are hidden from either player.
Nearly every game needs some element of surprise, and “pure” strategy games are the best example. In many cases, this element is provided by other players, be they human or AI. If you always knew exactly what your opponent’s next move was, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of tension!
Solitary games that lack an unpredictable opponent need some other way of spicing things up, and some form of randomization is virtually always the answer. The solitaire card game that nearly everyone is familiar with uses a randomized deck. If the card order was the same every time, there would be almost zero replayability.
However, it’s not just the games without human players that are seriously damaged by perfect information. The aforementioned checkers was recently “solved” — meaning if neither player makes a mistake, the end result will always be a draw.
Having some form of hidden information is a crucial element to preventing a single strategy from dominating. In many strategy games, there is a “fog of war” which covers the map, and exploration is necessary to reveal what lies in the darkness.
Sometimes even the map itself changes over time. For example, in the recent Civilization games, technological research reveals new resources. Their sudden appearance can greatly alter the “perfect” strategy for a given situation. This constant need to adapt to previously unknown circumstances is a big part of what makes games fun.
Hidden information is especially important in single-player games where AI opponents are simply executing lines of code written by a human programmer. In most games it is nearly impossible to develop an AI that will compete with the best of the best. If the human player is also able to see the entire game situation clearly, it’s only a matter of time before the AI’s patterns are learned, dissected and ruthlessly exploited. A game solved in this manner quickly loses whatever charm and joy it once held.
The amount of information that “should” be hidden can vary greatly, and ultimately depends on the preferences and goals of the designer. The card game Dominion makes 10 random action cards available to players at the beginning of each play session, and the inability to predict the order in which cards are drawn provides a great deal of replayability.
However, those who have played enough games will begin recognizing the optimum strategies for a given set of action cards, and Dominion has become formulaic for some. Adding more randomization or hidden information would probably improve the game for these players, but it might also make it less enjoyable for others. Hey, game design is more art than science.
Imperfect Information and Risk
The goal is to require some form of trade-off with every decision. One example of this is choosing between a smaller but safer bonus, and a riskier but much more powerful one.
This generally works best if the safer bonus is safe simply because it pays off in the short term while the other option pays off later and is riskier because other factors can come into play.
If the choice is basically just between “25 percent chance something really good happens” and “75 percent chance something okay happens” you’re not really making a strategic choice as much as you’re gambling.
While this can be made to work, it’s tough to make an interesting decision out of swinging a large weapon that only hits 50 percent of the time but does 50 damage or using one that hits 90 percent of the time and does 25 damage.
More often than not players will go with the safer option (especially if they try using the big one and it misses three times in a row — good luck getting them to try using it again!) This sort of mechanic is fairly rare in modern games, but I still see it pop up in a few Japanese RPGs.
You can find good examples of short term safety versus longterm risk working really well in pretty much any sports team management sim where there is a longterm player development aspect or the risk of injury/underperformance.
I’ve been playing a lot of the text-based sim Out of the Park Baseball for the last six months or so, and there have been some agonizing decisions — should I trade this guy in his prime for a collection of younger, less-developed and much riskier prospects? Do I send off a package of two risky prospects in exchange for one safer one? The inability to predict the future coupled with an understanding of the game’s mechanics, the likelihood of certain types of prospects panning out, the players’ injury history, the value of certain types of positions, etc. all combine to provide a set of very interesting and very difficult decisions.
This sort of trade-off can be applied in nearly any game. Should I declare war on my neighbor, hoping that the resources I expend to capture their lands add up to less than what I stand to gain? Is it worth the risk to attack that optional boss and try to open up a new area to explore? Players need to be equipped with some measure of information for this to be possible, but don’t underestimate the positive impact imperfect knowledge can provide.
I know some people disagree with me on this topic and claim that a game needs to be “more than just numbers.” You won’t find me arguing against the value flavor and “feel” provide. There are an innumerable number of valid design approaches that can result in a game enjoyed by a large audience. The point is simply to recognize that when it comes to game mechanics there’s basically a scale that has strategy at one end and flavor at the other.
One great example of a game which definitely doesn’t go out of its way to share everything with the player is Dwarf Fortress, which is all about exploring the game space and laughing as all sorts of crazy things happen. While most players don’t like there being a risk of drinking a potion and the game permanently ending right then and there, there are absolutely some who do and we developers definitely shouldn’t write them off. The roguelike genre in general is characterized by this possibility of a single mistake derailing everything.
Every development team has to decide for itself where on the spectrum of strategy-vs-flavor it wants to land. What is the goal of the game? Who is our target audience? What do we want players to feel when certain events happen? No gamer is the same and no game should be either.
A point I often make when discussing game design is that the only manner in which a game really matters is inside the player’s head. You could have the coolest, most complex system modeling some really interesting phenomenon… and it’s completely irrelevant unless the player knows what’s going on and how to have fun with the situation. When someone understands the mechanics and the implications of their decisions and is able to translate that into a completely unique experience — that’s when a game really succeeds.
篇目4，The Fallacy of Choice (In Games and Real Life)
by Ben Serviss
The following blog was, unless otherwise noted, independently written by a member of Gamasutra’s game development community. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Gamasutra or its parent company.
Games love to make a big deal about choices. Unfortunately, most of the time your only options boil down to either saving the helpless baby lamb from starving wolves or punting it to the pack leader, with nary a shade of gray in between.
With such shoddy ‘choices’ to pick from, any savvy gamer can easily size up the predictable ramifications for later gameplay, then depending if he’s playing through as a saint or a shithead, make the corresponding selection.
How is this really a choice? More than anything else, choices in most games resemble a metagame that game designers play called something like “Stay in Your Lane.” Lawful Good, here’s your lane. Chaotic Bad, here’s your lane. Want to switch lanes? Go right ahead, but in most of these D&D wannabees, there’s simply no option to carve out a mixed path.
You’ve made your decision about how you’ll play, and though you can stray or even change philosophies, your choices amount to on/off switches throughout the game as opposed to real decisions that ripple out nuanced consequences.
Sounds like a pretty poor imitation of what real life choices are, right? Here’s where it gets interesting. Take this hypothetical scenario: It’s early in the morning, and you’re getting ready to go to work. Do you open the door and walk outside? Kick it down and leap out head first? Break the window and rappel out with tied-together sheets? Unless you’re a stuntman or a psychopath, you open the door like a normal person because it’s the minimal necessary action to take.
Think about it – all of the small decisions, or ‘choices,’ that you make in a given day are simply the minimal necessary actions needed to accomplish what you want to do.
Note that the definition of minimal necessary action can fluctuate wildly based on a few key variables: your overall character and morals, current mental state, and the information available to you at the time. If the morning you got ready for work, you discovered your house was on fire, then damn straight you’d bust out the window and get the hell out of there. But if you couldn’t smell the smoke yet? You’d walk out calmly like any other day.
(Aside: Simply put, if something gets in your way, then you step up the minimal necessary action required – this is the heart of dramatic tension, and the core to good storytelling in any medium.)
What I’m trying to say here is that every ‘choice’ you make in your life is simply based on these variables, which combine to point you to what amounts to the best choice at the time.
So if your choices in real life are not technically choices but more like confirmations of your character and morals, mental state, and information at the moment – how do we make choice meaningful in games?
One way is to break the constraints of the good/bad/neutral metagame by opting out of such bland logic completely. Molleindustria’s Unmanned is an excellent example of this. In the game, you play as a US-based remote operator for an unmanned combat drone patrolling in Afghanistan. Core gameplay consists of choices that range from the mundane to life or death matters, but always in the removed setting of the pilot who is never in danger himself.
Outcomes for each choice aren’t necessarily clear, and the results come across fuzzy – kind of like in real life. In a way, your choices in Unmanned are almost a reverse of what the industry typically considers cutting edge.
If sharper, more detailed graphics and increasingly complex mechanics are a measure of technical progress, then maybe fuzzier, murkier choices are the way to bring more sophisticated emotions to games.
篇目5，Another Narrative Fallacy: Games are About Choice
by Warren Spector
If there’s one thing that comes up in all discussions of game narrative, it’s the desirability of player choice.
Sometimes, if a game is built on a branching story structure, choices may be offered independent of game systems or mechanics. (See Telltale, Quantic Dream and others.)
Sometimes, in a game with a more open structure, choices may be expressed through a player’s interaction with simulation elements, systems and mechanics. (See Bethesda, Bioware and — finally… thankfully… – many more).
Happily, finally, everyone involved in games – especially narrative games – gets all that.
However, even with nearly everyone agreeing on the importance of choice as a defining characteristic of gameplay, there’s a trap waiting to ensnare the unwitting:
Simply put, games aren’t, and shouldn’t be, about choice.
To expand on that a bit, it’s important, I think, to get past two widely held beliefs:
First is the idea that choices are of paramount importance, in and of themselves, and by virtue of the nature of the medium.
Second is the idea that choice implies, even requires us to think in terms of, reward and punishment… better and worse… right and wrong… light and dark… good and evil.
I simply don’t get this kind of thinking. I don’t get the exclusive focus on choice. I don’t get the seeming obsession, in choice-driven games, with binary opposition.
Choice. Doesn’t. Matter.
And binary oppositions are boring.
Choices without consequences are meaningless. If they don’t lead to different outcomes – preferably radically different outcomes – what’s the point?
And games that encourage players to think in terms of right and wrong ultimately encourage players to, as I put it, “play the meter” – “Ooh, I’m evil and now I have horns and a bunch of demon tattoos!” or “Ooh, I’m good – see? I have angel wings and a halo.” It’s just ridiculous.
“But wait a minute,” you may be thinking. “Aren’t you one of the guys who’s been screaming about player choice for a couple of decades?”
No. I’m not. If you look closely at what I’ve been saying, choice isn’t the be all, end all. Not at all. And it isn’t the key to what some of us have been calling “shared authorship” all these years.
So what the hell have I been screaming about?
Here it is: The interesting aspect of player choice isn’t the choice itself. The interesting thing – the only interesting thing, really – is the revelation of consequences. Choice without consequence is a waste of time, effort and money.
But wait, you say. Doesn’t the word “consequence” imply punishment, which sends us right back to better/worse, good/evil, right/wrong? Doesn’t consequence require designers to impose a value judgment and maybe even provide a good/evil meter so players know where they stand?
Not at all.
One of the hard and fast rules I lay out for my teams is “Never judge the player.” Never. Players should never know what you think about a question or its answer. (See, this is where my last blog post about about questions comes in.) You’re not there to answer the questions your game asks players to consider. You’re most assuredly not there, I tell my designers, to say to players “this is right and that is wrong.” Designers exist to provide opportunities for players to test behaviors and then see the consequences of those behaviors. Given the chance, players will judge for themselves whether the benefits gained by making a particular choice were worth the cost of making it.
It may just be me, but in my experience, there are few, if any, questions or situations that lend themselves to clearly defined, universally agreed upon right or wrong answers or solutions. In most real world cases, there are only shades of gray. Even if you disagree (as extremists and believers of all stripes might) I’m comfortable saying that the most interesting situations are the ones where right and wrong are not readily apparent. I don’t understand why more game developers don’t acknowledge that and revel in our medium’s unique ability to reflect the wondrous, complex lack of clarity of the world in which we live.
Okay, so let me try to bring the two parts of this trip down narrative lane full circle. Let me close by saying this about questions, choices and the nature of game narrative:
A successful game narrative isn’t one that tells a great story (though that’s obviously desirable!).
A successful game narrative is one that asks questions.
A successful game narrative gives players the tools to answer those questions both locally (in the moment) and globally (in how the entire story plays out).
A successful game narrative is one that shows shows players the consequences of their local and global decisions, without judging players for making those decisions.
There are only shades of gray and, that being the case, all decisions have costs as well as benefits. There is no absolute right or absolute wrong. (And, yes, I’m a moral relativist at heart…) Even if you disagree, games that reflect that will get players thinking in ways no other medium can match.
A successful game narrative is one that engenders conversations not only about how each player solved a game problem, but also why. Most of the dialogue we hear around games is about optimal strategies or about how moving a cutscene was. How limited and dull that is.
What I want – and hope you want – is to hear players debating the rightness or wrongness of their decisions. I want to hear one player say, “How could you have stolen that?” and another player describing her thought process… I want to hear one player ask, “Why did you leave that guy alive after what he did?” and another make a case for Ghanndi-like pacifism… I want to hear players who reach an endgame driven by their choices ask one another, “How could you think that solution was appropriate or right or ethical?”
“Appropriate,” “right” and “ethical” are magic words. Other media can make the claim that they deal with those concepts, too – and they do – but in those media, the words belong to authors while in games, those words can and should belong to players.
Wrap your mind around all this, and we’re on our way to realizing the potential of games as a unique narrative form. Clearly, we owe something to earlier narrative models, but we can and must build on their teachings, maybe even leave those teachings behind to create something more collaborative, more moving and more compelling than any other medium can be.
Embracing choice means we’re halfway there. What do you say we go the rest of the way?