Ladies and gentlemen, let us take a moment to ponder a rather philosophical topic, namely the one of free choice. I’m sure that many great minds have already written about this subject, and that since the dawn of mankind, humanity has asked itself: are my choices made by my free, unchained spirit, or is every road I take predestined by my experiences in this world, thus making me nothing more than the product of my environment? Well, I can’t provide you with an answer to this larger-than-life question, but I can tell you this: when it comes to games, choice is just an illusion.
Alright, let’s back up a bit and I dive a bit into the reason I’m writing this. As mentioned previously, I pledged all of this month’s gaming time to The Secret World (and I already cheated on this pledge with DmC). The new character I rolled solely for this month is my third toon in the game, so I already know most of the skills and abilities available to me. On both my previous toons, some form of magic was always part of my character: on one character, I used Blood magic for healing, while on the other one, the Elemental magic available was used to fry zombies and shock Filth abominations. So, on this brand-spanking new toon, I wanted to go fully physical, using only melee or weapon skills. That plan worked well for the first hour of playing the character, having fun with my Blades / Pistols combo. But then I looked a bit too closely at the Ability Wheel, seeing all the cool tanking and survivability powers Chaos magic holds. I never had a character that used that form of magic, I reminded myself of my oath to not succumb to vile sorcery, but my will is weak and before I knew it, discord and destruction were left everywhere I decided to unleash my Chaos magic. I’m just a sucker for the occult!
While pondering this situation, I remembered how I had done this before in several games. Well, I’m not talking about limiting myself to just certain skill sets, but promising myself to do the opposite of things I usually do. With more and more titles including moral choices in their gameplay, I find myself playing the eternal good guy. If I have the choice to either save a puppy or let it drown, I would even fight an additional boss to rescue the critter in distress. In a second run through Mass Effect 2, I tried really, really, really hard being a Renegade, but after a few choices that gave me some red points, I felt horribly sorry for the pixels I violated, and went Paragon once again.
This has convinced me that even when a game shoves choices right into my face, telling me that my character can be everything he desires to be, I tend to go for the same things over and over again. There have only been a few occasions where I succeeded in doing the complete opposite of what I usually do, but it still didn’t feel right. The time I’ve spent with my Inquisitor in Star Wars: the Old Republic electrocuting people and barfing out cliché villain one-liners was fun, but I felt like I was doing something wrong. Well, I was, if you consider that I was going around killing people left and right for an evil Empire, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about having a feeling that I was cheating on myself, and the way I use to play games. Does that make any sense?
Anyway, all of this gives me the feeling that I’m living a so-called self-inflicted illusion of choice. Every time a game promises me ultimate freedom, I fall for it again and praise how I can do whatever the eff I want. But two days later, I notice that I’m playing the same character I play in every free and open game, and start being bugged by it. Don’t get me started on free-roaming games like Grand Theft Auto, I can fill another post with how that kind of freedom cripples me.
So, do you suffer from an identical situation? Do you think I just get over it and try something new? No matter how you feel, share your thoughts in the comments below!