Thursday, September 2, 2010

Types of Choice

After a bit of a hiatus due to family issues, I'm back and ready to roll. This update: progress on discerning the different types of narrative choice that exist and their particular purposes.

The different types of choice derive from the two psychological architectures we identified earlier, those being rule-following and rationality, as well as the elements of our rubric--gameplay, narrative, discernability, and personalization. I've identified them in three pairs of choice types:


These choice types are not necessarily mutually exclusive, nor are they linked in any particular order with the rubric elements; that is an element I'm still exploring, and these are subject to change as I develop them further, but in the meantime this is how they are defined:

Direct - Choices presented directly to the player. Most narrative decisions are presented like this, offering dialog options or menu-based options.

Indirect - Choices not presented directly to the player, but made indirectly through emergent action and factored into the game's reasoning. Only a small handful of games are known to employ this, the most famous of which is Silent Hill 2, which changes endings based on things like the player's average health level throughout the game.

Mass Effect: One of many examples of direct choice in game narrative

Practical - Choices related directly to the game's end goals as the player perceives them; a type of rational decision-making as opposed to rule-following as players will be actively pursuing what they perceive to be a "right" choice that will get them a step closer to completing the game. Dictated by the player's play-style and the value they place on specific in-game resources.

Moral - Choices related directly to the themes in the game's narrative and how the player relates to, understands, or interprets them. Dictated by the player's own moral values and interpretation of the story.

Rational - Choices specifically related to overcoming in-game obstacles and solving problems. Similar to practical choice but for a sense of immediacy and short-term challenge as opposed to long-term goals related to the metagame concept of "winning." Distinct for the fact that it's much easier to role-play in this situation and that an immediate rational decision can conflict with long-term goals just as easily as it can support them. In other words: players are more likely to satisfice when it comes to an immediate, rational choice as opposed to maximize, creating more realistic responses.

Personal - Choices specifically related to the act of role-playing, exploring the story, and forming relationships with elements and characters within it. Distinct from moral choice in that it covers a far broader array of concepts than merely the focal element of the story. Important element for creating a more three-dimensional narrative, immersing the player, and giving them a sense of personalization. Personal preferences can conflict easily with practical or rational preferences, presenting players with dilemmas.

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