Choice in video games: how our decisions can change the gaming experience

Choice in video games: how our decisions can change the gaming experience

Choice in video games

Choosing is a practice that we constantly implement throughout our life. We move from decisive choices (such as those concerning our training or work path) to less important choices (such as which shirt to wear, what to eat, what to do in the evening), up to almost involuntary decisions (for example, in which direction to move , with which hand to scratch an arm and other such gestures). All these choices are fundamental for the construction of our ego, of our personality, of our "way of being" in the world. The possibility of choosing obviously also spills over into the media, not only in the way we can decide which product to experience and how to do it, but above all in what is offered to us during the interaction with them. In the following article we will analyze these implications in more detail, trying to understand how much our choices can influence within a medium such as videogame.

The dilemma of interaction

L Interaction, on a broader level, can be found in any media form, as each medium proposes an exchange of action and reaction with the interlocutor (where the one acting is the medium and the one reacting is the individual). However, there are different degrees of interaction, the most concrete of which is that of a direct action by the individual member of the public on what is proposed by the specific medium, who reacts to this change.

Marshall McLuhan has proposed a classification system for these specific cases, distinguishing cold media from hot media.

The names chosen may make you think otherwise, but cold media are those with a greater degree of interactivity (i.e., active) , while the hot media are all those that do not foresee a great level of participation from the public (and, therefore, passive).

Let's make two simple examples: cinema can be considered a hot medium, as the viewer cannot alter the flow of the film in any way (in a cinema hall, each viewer will witness the same, identical work); video games, on the other hand, are included among the cold media, given that the experience, linear as it may be, can vary from player to player, even in its most insignificant aspects, which we will return to shortly.

First we want to focus more strongly on the possibilities of choice and on the differences that can be encountered between one medium and another. Obviously, this wording does not remain fixed, but is able to adapt to the changes proposed by each individual medium.Let us take, for example, interactive films, a sort of mixture between cinema and video game that wants to bring interaction and the possibility of choice also within the cinema, or the predecessors of this trend, the book games. Another great example is the world of Western theater, which for centuries has tried to separate representation and spectator, but which, with the advent of the twentieth century, has seen a deconstruction of the boundary between stage and audience (see, for example, Grotowski's "poor theater"), bringing the spectator directly into the work and even making it, on some occasions, able to change its characteristics.

Virtually every media form has seen an evolution of this type (there are countless examples from the last century, from some artistic installations, to the introduction of televoting).

The difference in choice

The videogame medium is so loved, but also so fragmented, because it offers a huge range of choices, not only in terms of genre (and therefore of products it offers to every potential buyer), but also from the point of view of the individual elements proposed by the games themselves. This is a bit like what happens with other media, but at a "higher level".

Let's try to give you an example by continuing to offer you a comparison between cinema and video games. In the first case, the choice we can refer to concerns which film to view. This can depend on the most varied interests, the desire, the presence of a more or less appreciated figure in the film. Each of these elements is able to condition our choice with respect to the vision of a product rather than another.

Let's take any film: one person may like a given film for several reasons, just as another may be bad for just as many. Maybe the first adores the director and his camera movements, which allows him to appreciate this film even just for that single aspect, recognizing, however, the lack of perfection of the product. The second, on the other hand, has no interest in directing, but perhaps adores the performance proposed by the protagonist and, even in this case, manages to override everything else for that particular. Let's take, then, a third individual who enters the speech. For the latter, the soundtrack is a fundamental part of the cinematographic construction and that of the hypothetical film for him is bland and not very stimulating, which, added to the fact that he has no interest in either directing or acting , contributes to creating a negative opinion in him regarding the film in question.

Each of these people was looking for something within that film. There are those who were satisfied with it and those who were disappointed, but all three were looking for something specific and different, which prompted them to make a choice, namely to view the aforementioned film.

Now, this example is obviously a simplification. We believe (and hope) that the public does not approach a particular product for a single characteristic element. Of course, there are those who may be more interested in photography, visual effects or the production process that led to the making of the film, but, ultimately, we don't believe that anyone saves a bad product just because one of its aspects has satisfied them. . Then, obviously, to each one of him; God forbid.

In the case of video games, however, the choice finds new meanings, which are intertwined with what is proposed by the single title.

It is no longer just a question of choosing which game to play, but also to decide which turns the narrative can take through moral choices (in the products that allow it) or even just to choose in which direction to move the character, where to stop and when to do it. Remaining three seconds or ten minutes to contemplate a panorama is a pure and simple choice of whoever finds himself interacting with the title.

This makes possible a division similar to that proposed earlier for the cinematographic medium, but more stratified, because interactivity also comes into play.

The latter is present in practically every title since, even if the game is, for example, on tracks, we choose how solve the "picture", which enemies to eliminate first, where to point the cursor, how long to take to finish the level, etc. Only some titles, such as Guitar Hero-style rhythm games, do not offer a real choice in terms of gameplay, even if there too we find skills to be activated at the moment we consider most appropriate or the possibility of choosing the song to perform (what which is very close to what we have said for the cinematographic choice).

Therefore, even in video games we find those looking for the plot, those looking for camera movements, those looking for graphics (which can also be sought in cinema, example in 3D animation or precisely in visual effects), but, in this case, there is also a preference in terms of gameplay (frenetic, not very violent, relaxing, unlikely) and proposed features.

The latter preferences all use interaction to satisfy the player.The individual's response to the feedback offered by the title allows each player to advance in the way they prefer within the adventure, even if they do not feel like they are living I give a unique and distinct experience; even if he thinks he is not in control.

The charm of choice

We have seen two different types of choices, one related to a more general concept (which title to play), while the another to a more specific one (how to interact with the game world).

In a medium like the videogame one, these constants are extremely linked (albeit not inseparably) to each other.

Let's try to propose a further example. A player chooses a title only because he is attracted by the breathtaking views shown in the presentation videos. This player, therefore, will approach the game with a very precise idea, that is the almost certain satisfaction of the thirst for stunning environments.

Another player, pushed by the alleged fluidity of the combat system, buys the same title. Both remain extremely satisfied, and let's say this title is very straightforward, with a breakdown into levels and little scope for exploration. Both complete the same level, but the first takes a few minutes longer than the second. Why do two players, facing the same title, linear and without "choice of approach", complete it with two different times? can be found in the priorities that the two players were looking for within the title.

The first, attracted by the suggestive views, took longer because he preferred to contemplate for a few moments the game world that surrounded him (for as static), while the second, attracted by the fighting, promptly skipped all that was superfluous to rush directly into the combat sections, where he could also satisfy his senses.

So, it could be concluded that the choice of the video game also has repercussions on the decisions we make in it, whether they are moral (how to behave within the game world) or apparently irrelevant (how and when to move i, how long to stay contemplating a panorama, how long it takes to conclude a fight).

These seem obvious things, but in a videogame world where more and more possibilities of approach are offered, it is easy to forget how much our choices, even the most banal, affect what we experience.

We are constantly looking for freedom of approach, the possibility of changing the events of a narrative at will, of shaping a synthetic world at will, according to the choices we make.

However, we forget that we have always been in control of our gaming experience. Even when our hands seemed more tied, we were always the proponents of the game's destiny, whose credits didn't flow until we, with our own skills alone, reached them.

The our special dedicated to choice in video games.

Perhaps it is inconclusive and redundant; maybe we just wasted your time reading our pindaric flights, but it was a fixed thought that had been harassing us for quite a while and it was really liberating to be able to write it down and share it with you.

As usual , Let us know what you think. We are waiting for you below, in the comments.

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