If you were a kid in the 90’s, chances are you had a Give Yourself Goosebumps book or two. One of the best children’s horror series ever (honestly they don’t make enough children’s horror series anymore). The allure of these books was that you were a part of the story and, even more than that, you chose how your adventure would unfold. Were you going to turn to page 54 to go down that dark scary ass basement? How about flipping the page to 99 to explore that creepy swamp your aunt told you to stay out of? The choice was up to you. Goosebumps is the reason for my love affair with today’s choice based narrative games.
I had not truly played narrative games that let you affect the story until I bought Mass Effect 2 on the Ps3. Captivated. That’s the only word I can use to explain what I felt playing this game. I was a part of a space opera and everything I said and did as Commander Shepard had consequences. From the relationships I could forge to who lived and died. All of it was dependent on what kind of person I wanted Commander Shepard to be.
While I love the Mass Effect series, the pinnacle of these narrative-driven games has to be games from Telltale studios. Their stories keep you eagerly awaiting for the next chapter in their episodic adventure. However, what sets them apart is not just how well their stories are crafted but the nature of the choices you make.
When you are in a conversation as Commander Shepard, the choice you make are clearly defined. Paragon and Renegade. Good and evil. However, what makes a Telltale game better is that every choice is a big shade of gray. It leaves you wondering, was that choice right or was it wrong? What will these characters think of me? Your choices are defined by what you feel is necessary not what the game tells you is good or bad.
Recently, I played Life is Strange (which is a far better game to me then Remember Me) and Game of Thrones. The least to say is I am hooked. While many are quick to claim these games have no real gameplay, I say that your games have no freedom. You are told what to do, complete the mission as dictated and while you can move the character, ultimately you end up doing what they want you to do. Don’t get me wrong I love playing games but giving me the choice of where the story goes is the ultimate illusion of freedom.