You’re an undersea explorer, hunting for the Lost City of Atlantis, and a stream of bubbles catches your eye. If you decide to analyze the bubbles, turn to page 9. If you decide to take depth readings instead, turn to page 14. What do you do? WHAT. DO. YOU. DO?! You just joined millions of people around the world in fondly remembering the Choose Your Own Adventure books, that is what you do.
Most of these books were a pretty passive experience, but this addictive series, introduced in the 1980’s, put kids squarely in the driver’s seat. We were the heroes; we got to decide our fate. We’d get to a literary fork in the road and have to decide which way to go. It was an early lesson in how decisions have consequences-even if sometimes those decisions meant we’d get poisoned by a tree frog, gored by a buffalo, or eaten by a dragon.
Sure, in the books you could always backtrack and make a different choice. Not always the case in real life, where one crummy decision often meant twenty years at a dead-end job or a lifetime trapped in a marriage with a person who does not pick up their socks off the floor. Sometimes we would have rather face the dragon.
Now I got that off my chest, on to the real story. Why would I talk about these collection of books? How does this relate to video games? There are few games that give you that real choice like these books. Look at the game that just came out: Infamous: Second Son. It is a true open world game. That is something I love. It give you the Karma system. You come to a certain moment in the game and it will ask you to choose a path. Good or Evil.
The player is given several opportunities to use these powers for good or evil purposes in the game. Starting in a neutral position, it ranges from Guardian to Champion to Hero on the Good side, and from Thug to Outlaw to Infamous on the Evil side. Certain actions, such as stopping to help injured citizens or draining their health to restore Delsin’s, will affect the Karma level in either direction. Now karma also influences the behavior of the citizens(NPC’s), they will come to help Delsin in battle if his Karma is Good, but will turn on Delsin and throw rocks at him if he has Bad Karma.
For those who do not remember, in Skyrim, when you are beginning a quest you have three dialog choices. The first choice being the righteous path, saying “Yes, I will slay the dragon”. Second choice is the neutral response: “I really don’t want to, but I’ll do it”. The Last choice you have is the negative response: [Thor’s Voice] “I say thee NAY! I will join the dragon in destroying you!”. You always have a choice. In the games most of these are “Good or evil”. You pick one side or the other.
These two games are just examples of a choose your own adventure type game. Most likely a CYOA system would be in an open world type game. It gives the player a sense of freedom. You can do whatever you want. Anytime, anywhere. However, I would like games to go more in-depth on this subject. Not just playing and having the NPC’s love or hate you but you the character influencing the story. Yes, there can be many different ways to die in a game but also many different ways to the ending as well.
Thanks for listening! Turn to page 15 to start over.