Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Feeling of Meaningful Choice

What does your Inquisitor look like?
My latest PopMatters is up, in which I amble about in the dark searching for the feeling, an emotional description of sorts, of meaningful choice in games.

Exploring how you experience art is a strange inward process. I describe it in the article as though it were an attempt to explain the shady unknown of someone standing in your peripheral vision. Actually doing it though, of self-reflectively poking at how something means is more destabilizing than that. Trying to understand the experiential difference between one choice and another becomes an exercise in futility.

Take Mendelsund's What We See When We Read. The book is an excellent analysis of the act of reading, but it also asks far more questions than it answers. Is reading really like following a path? If so, what does it mean to diverge from that path? How does the order of events or descriptions (or the lack thereof) change how we experience a character or a story? All of these apply to games too, as narrative works, but are then mixed up with a strange variation in agency.

My decision in Dragon Age: Inquisition to romance Josephine, whether or not it alters the script significantly, is fundamentally important to me in a way far more important than, say, whether I chose to kill all the dragons in the game. If you choose to not romance anyone, are you missing out on meaning? I don't think so. Instead, how the game means is different.

How do things mean to you? I don't know. But searching for an answer is a rewarding process in and of itself.

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