dannthr

Emotional Decisions in Video Games

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So recently I've been playing a few games specifically because they put me in a position to make decisions that seem to have emotional outcomes and I've been really fascinated by this particular facet of design.

I know that we've had a lot of games that by design (usually story) have had an emotional affect--like the death of a character, etc.--but these aren't emotional consequences based on the decisions you make as a player (usually).  Like FF6 and FF7 had some emotional story marks, but these weren't the result of a decision rather they were emotional moments in a story surrounding characters the player had already invested in (as an example).

I first started thinking about the impact of these sorts of game scenarios when I was playing Life Is Strange:

[spoilers]

During the scene in Chloe's bedroom, when her step-dad comes home and Chloe asks you to take the rap for her/protect her/etc.  I got stressed out because I had, for whatever reason, bonded with the idea of Chloe as a friend and an important person--I was invested--and I wanted to make decisions that would help her, but I wasn't sure how much I was willing to sacrifice my own player motivations and character in the game.

[/spoilers]

There does seem to be a slight element of personal sacrifice in these sorts of scenarios and I'm really interested in hearing other people's experiences with game scenarios where you, as a player, have been placed in a situation where either the stress of making a difficult decision or the outcome of a decision resulted in an emotional stress/reaction.  I would love to hear the scenario and how you felt about it and whether you thought it was a compelling or engaging experience. (And why you think it effectively tugged at your emotions)

And be sure to tag your spoilers for courtesy.

I'll offer another one, This War of Mine:

[spoilers]

I stumbled upon a woman being assaulted by a man with a gun in an abandoned building.  I heard them arguing from outside a door and could see through a keyhole that he had a gun.  He pulled her struggling off screen with the strong implication that he was going to rape her.  I only had a shovel for clearing rubble, so I wasn't sure I could help her, but I wanted to help her--it seemed like the right thing to do.  So I braced myself and pursued in the hopes that I could surprise him or get the jump on him with a shovel.  He had taken her into a flatbed truck with the door closed, so I decided to just rush in.

I died/was shot.  That is, my character died, and he died forever.  I was frustrated, of course, he was a good character in the game, and there were game related consequences for his death.  But emotionally, it was everything that lead up to it that was really thrilling.

The feeling of fear, anticipation, and the strong sense of justice that doesn't really apply in the real world was evoked.  It was exciting and emotionally charged and it rested completely on my choices.

[/spoilers]

I'd love to hear what other people have experienced, what games they've played where they've faced these sorts of decisions, and what they thought about the experiences afterward.

 

 

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Man, This War of Mine put me in some quite emotional decisions. I got the same one as you (on Night 2), but managed to save the girl -- I felt so good after that, and so did my character.

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Definitely agree!  Do you guys have any other games that presented you with emotionally driven decisions that forced you to overcome internal conflicts about how to proceed?

 

As a juxtaposition, I recently played Fire Watch, and while throughout the game I am making decisions that presumably alter the course of the discussion I'm having with the person on my radio, I found that I had minimal conflict or investment into the outcome of those decisions.  Often times it was very subtle, maybe once or twice I would make a decision to try to keep on her good side, but that mostly had to do with not wanting to be punished with silence (which happened once) and partly because I didn't completely trust her.

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Maybe Game of Thrones? There's not a lot of games that actually offer you choices and actually has them affect anything. That's why when a gem like Life is Strange comes along it's so much more special. I didn't try again when Kate committed suicide, I had to stick with that even tho it was bad because I couldn't rewind and to restart the chapter would have been cheating IMO. 

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I agree, Life Is Strange was a breath of fresh air--so to speak--out of curiosity, what about that game helped you become emotionally invested in the character decisions?  Was it simply because you knew that there would be changes in the course of the story?  Or did you emotionally connect with the characters themselves?  What made it special to you?

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Honestly it's really hard to say. The part in the white hidden text of my last post was a big one. Knowing people who talk like the characters, and talk like Chloe, made them seem a little more genuine to me. It's definitely the characters that were special, and the story and relationships between each character. When it ended it was kinda bittersweet, will have to play it again someday. 

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