So, what are we going
to call this little boy? How about Julius?
That’s not bad. Or Jose? That sounds good too. -Why not Paul?
-Yes, Paul. -No, John’s better.
-No, it’s not. It’s not so bad. What about John-Paul?
Let’s do that! What if our choices in video
games weren’t really choices? Let’s take a look! ‘Do not let anyone decide for you’ Fixed images, manga
heroes with coloured hair, and love affairs. Welcome to the kingdom
of Otome games, those video games
for romantic young ladies. In the 90s, while hardcore gamers
were facing off with arcade games, young Japanese ladies were
gripped by these narrative games and their schmaltzy stories. But what exactly are they? There must be 2 or 3 boys
who already tried their luck, but certainly not like this. Otome games come from Japan. They developed in the 80s. It’s a lot of reading, and little
interaction on the user’s part. The little interaction we have is usually just dialogue choices, in order to choose how to
respond to the other characters. It allows us to have, in most of the games, a sort of
love capital for each character. So, depending on
whether we get along with such and such character,
we might end up being their best friend,
or possibly more… A game that promises
a virtual love affair, with an avatar straight out
of teenage fantasies. Forsaken nerds soon
discovered its potential. But two decades later,
the genre has dwindled and now only appeals
to a few otakus. In the meantime,
dating game designers have lent their
distinctive expertise to role plays such as the Persona series, with its hybrid action
between strategic fighting and social interactions. In this genre, the moment of
choice denotes the precise moment when the player feels
his utmost commitment, moral or emotional,
for his heroes. Suggesting plots
based on characters, already pushes us
to give interpretations of what these characters
are going through and position ourselves
accordingly. It’s a wonderful ground
to generate uncertainty. We can easily generate uncertainty and also create
forms of attachment with the emotions we create in the
characters, we feel responsible for what we create within the
characters in this environment. Mass Effect,
an epic three-act space opera, confronts the player with
dilemmas linked to spirituality, and to the very
notion of humanity. But according to
its creator, Casey Hudson, it’s primarily love affairs that seem to have
impacted players. We see, as much in Dating Sims
as in recent productions, answer choices in the dialogues, that do not lead to
anything different in the story, be it immediately or later. But it doesn’t matter, as the
player was given an answer choice. As a result, they felt in charge
for a few seconds. They don’t need to be told whether
his choices were useful or not. Are they thus cosmetic choices, aimed at making
the characters friendlier? In game design, they’re
called micro-choices. Easy to set up, they customise the
player’s experience on the surface, by creating
the illusion of choice. So, what are the conditions
to offer the player real choices? When you make decisions that have
a real impact on the game’s world, and disrupts
its geopolitical order, or the core of
your narrative experience, these choices
are called ‘macro’. Macro-choices exercise
plot-turnings, which deeply affect
the game’s universe. As a result, they make
the creators’ work complex as they entail the production
of numerous elements. If we designed
games in this way, we’d have to create
a huge number of settings, various characters, dialogues.
We can’t produce this. It would result
in very short games in order to offer
many possibilities. When they’re games
that require a level of realism, or graphics, such as ‘Walking Dead’ or ‘Life Is Strange’. Offering players a vast
number of plot turnings, of which most will
never be taken, seems to go against any
practical or economic sense. In order to avoid creating
several games in one, developers resort to subtleties that allow them
to give us the sensation, at least the sensation, of
experiencing a unique adventure. What happens is,
we must design the game in a smart way. We must tell
ourselves that the player’s choice should have
a high impact on the environment but a small one on
our production capacity. A well-known example is the end of the first episode of
the first season of Walking Dead. The players are given the choice between keeping
this or this character alive. The following episode hardly
changes, except for the fact that instead of loading
a character next to the hero, we load another
in the sequences. -That’s my secret.
-But it’s no longer a secret. Since I’ve told you everything! It’s no longer about
the illusion of choice, but the illusion
of repercussion, of an impact on the game’s
universe, caused by our decisions. Are we thus doomed
to follow a set path, with the conviction that it was
our choices that led us here? A game unfolds
in the player’s mind. It’s a representation that we, as designers, generate
via sounds and images, but it all happens here. Thus, the pleasure lasts well after the deceit
has been discovered. After all, these moral dilemmas, these tactical issues,
and these passion dramas, have a real impact
only on our psyche and its ability to alter
our environment. We are the only ones who build the reality
of this narrative, in our way of living it. Guided by the game and the
mechanics created for us, our decisions implicate
and concern us intimately. The most exhilarating part
is not the nature of the choice, but the fact that we decide
to bear its consequences. In short, a life lesson. Are you torn? Are you hesitating
between two people? Text CHOICE to 81212 and see who’s best for you. Text CHOICE to 81212 Text CHOICE to 81212