The Perils of Too Much Choice

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The Perils of Too Much Choice

The bizarre theater experience of Sleep No More illustrates that players don't really want unlimited choice - just the illusion of it.

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The example for the illusion of unlimited choice I would have used would have been Minecraft myself, but I can see why Myst was used.

I would suggest that when players feel hamstrung by a lack of choice, it's not necessarily due to a presence or absence of choice, but simply an inability to make the choice the player wants to make.

And that will always happen in a videogame, because no designer can think of everything. (It's one of the reasons I am quick to defend [good] fanfiction, as it often is a reflection of what the player wanted to do in game but couldn't.)

Interesting article. Ultimately, I think your theatre experience was what it was meant to be. An open game has a central focus. The point of the experience was to let you go and watch or do what you wanted.

Look at the current crop of open world games. In Skyrim, you are first almost beheaded, then given freedom to go where you want. When you decide to go where people tell you to go, you are then given further purpose. In Saint's Row The Third, you're focus is becoming the head of a cities street gang scene. In Arkham City, you are Batman, unraveling the plot of Hugo Strange and meeting other villains on the road to that.

I think openness is about being allowed to do or not do anything in any order you with to address them. You can play games like Skyrim and never complete the main quest line. You could literally just walk around killing things and do nothing else if that is what you want to do. You can just clean up the streets endlessly in Arhkam City, and you can just beat people with giant dildo in Saints Row if that is what you want. In your play, you could read every piece of paper, follow a single actor for three hours, sprint from actor to actor every few seconds, or you could just stand by the entrance and wait for it to end. This is the essence of choice, even too much choice. But when you have an open experience, it's up to you to decide how to best utilize that experience to get what you want out of it.

I don't think it's too many choices, I think it's not being decisive on what you want to get out of an experience.

That's what I've been saying for years, and yet alarmingly few of my friends and acquaintances who play games are willing to even entertain the notion - it's always "give me more choice", "open it up even further". Every single game with a singleplayer component and a story requires story cohesion, otherwise it's just an unfocussed toybox; that doesn't mean it can't be fun, but at some point I tend to lose interest if I don't feel I'm heading anywhere specific. Feel free to build elaborate sets around the yellow brick road, game designers, but for crying out loud, make sure I can still see the road if I look for it.

Personally...I'm surprised Pokémon wasn't used. With 649 critters to choose from, the argument can be made that's there's too mcuh choice in that particular game.

I can definitely see the argument for why some constraints are necessary. Sleep No More looks like the kind of play where you almost need a walkthrough to figure out which areas to go to just to see some semblance of plot. (If there is any.)

Sonicron:
That's what I've been saying for years, and yet alarmingly few of my friends and acquaintances who play games are willing to even entertain the notion - it's always "give me more choice", "open it up even further". Every single game with a singleplayer component and a story requires story cohesion, otherwise it's just an unfocussed toybox; that doesn't mean it can't be fun, but at some point I tend to lose interest if I don't feel I'm heading anywhere specific. Feel free to build elaborate sets around the yellow brick road, game designers, but for crying out loud, make sure I can still see the road if I look for it.

Don't worry, I've been arguing the same thing. I've always loved how games can tell a story in a unique way and have felt that the more open games become, the weaker the central story and so missing out on a lot of opportunity. I also find I end up collapsing under the weight of choice in a lot of games, especially RPGs that like to throw millions of quests at you at the same time. I either end up stopping because I no longer care for each plot thread as there's so many to keep track of, or stopping because I can't decide where to go/what to do next. Best example is I ended up abandoning my 20hr save on Skyrim and re-reolling when I had 30 quests in my quest log and completely lost the plot of 1/2 them and couldn't decide which of the other 15 to do 1st.

Baresark:
Interesting article. Ultimately, I think your theatre experience was what it was meant to be. An open game has a central focus. The point of the experience was to let you go and watch or do what you wanted.

[...]

I don't think it's too many choices, I think it's not being decisive on what you want to get out of an experience.

Exactly, Baresark makes an excellently observed point which I can't improve upon.

Regarding Sleep No More, I first saw this about eight or so years ago somewhere near Vauxhall (I think, might have been the other side near Greenwich). It was, without any doubt whatsoever, the best performance of Macbeth I've ever seen - and trust me, I've seen quite a few.

If you like theatre & get a chance to see Punchdrunk's work while they're in the US I strongly advise you to go.

Plinglebob:
I also find I end up collapsing under the weight of choice in a lot of games, especially RPGs that like to throw millions of quests at you at the same time. I either end up stopping because I no longer care for each plot thread as there's so many to keep track of, or stopping because I can't decide where to go/what to do next. Best example is I ended up abandoning my 20hr save on Skyrim and re-reolling when I had 30 quests in my quest log and completely lost the plot of 1/2 them and couldn't decide which of the other 15 to do 1st.

Heh. Funny you should mention that; this is actually the main reason why I'm not much of an RPG fan. I love good storytelling, and the concept of a game stuffed chock-full of quests certainly sounds appealing... but when I'm actually in the game, seeing a nightmarish tidalwave of NPC demands building up in my quest log is quite intimidating. (And if that doesn't get me to quit the game long before I get to the end, it's the fact that the experience begins to feel artificially drawn out, and I get bored.)
Too bad you say this sidequest thing is a problem in Skyrim as well. Guess that's another 'con' on my 'to buy or not to buy Skyrim' chart.

Sonicron:
Heh. Funny you should mention that; this is actually the main reason why I'm not much of an RPG fan. I love good storytelling, and the concept of a game stuffed chock-full of quests certainly sounds appealing... but when I'm actually in the game, seeing a nightmarish tidalwave of NPC demands building up in my quest log is quite intimidating. (And if that doesn't get me to quit the game long before I get to the end, it's the fact that the experience begins to feel artificially drawn out, and I get bored.)
Too bad you say this sidequest thing is a problem in Skyrim as well. Guess that's another 'con' on my 'to buy or not to buy Skyrim' chart.

The reason I like JRPGs is you get all the fun of RPG battles and levelling with a strong story.

Re: Skyrim, I've started playing again and just not talking to NPCs unless I've finished what quests I already have. Means more backtracking, but less problems.

I really liked this article, and I really want to see that play. That play does bring up an interesting point in choice and that it's really all the things that the developer could possibly come up with for the player to do.

I've thought a lot about open world games since they seem to be cropping up more and more as of late. I've always wondered when the developer gets to the point of creating the game with a lot of choices and deciding when there's enough. I think my problem with open world games is that there are so many choices that I feel lost sometimes and have no idea where to start.

I think what Skyrim is doing is a rather intersting decision in that there's a mechanic that will create missions for the player to do "forever". So technically, you can't finish the game since there's always something to do. And considering how massive the place is, it will be interesting to see how well it will continue to do within the next 6 months. I think that's as big as a game can possibly get before you lose the player.

It seems to me that a lot of the things you credit the developer for doing are not actually because thats what they wanted to do but instead due to limitations such as budget and time constraints.

Baresark:
I don't think it's too many choices, I think it's not being decisive on what you want to get out of an experience.

This is exactly what I was thinking when I read the article. Not everybody will get overwhelmed by true freedom of choice and not know what to do.

I never got round to seeing it, but I was very keen to see Masque of the Red Death when it was on in London, and it sounds like it would have been very similar to this.

This was a really interesting article, and just reminds me how much I miss the articles on this site. I have no doubt that there were very good reasons for the change in direction and the increased focus on video series, but at the end of the day, what I came to the Escapist for was the articles. I'd log in on a Tuesday afternoon and have an hour or two's interesting, informative reading ahead of me; not so any more. There's still the odd article, like this one; they're still good, like this one; but in spite of all that, it just makes me want things to be the way they used to be.

Sabrestar:
I would suggest that when players feel hamstrung by a lack of choice, it's not necessarily due to a presence or absence of choice, but simply an inability to make the choice the player wants to make.

Abso-friggin-lutely. Don't blame the game if your tiny mind can't wrap around the concepts straight away. Some games are built to last, even in this day and age, and I'd take a hundred San Andreases over another GTA IV anyday.

That said, people theorising that expanded content = less interesting story is also true. But this is not the fault of the genre, or even the mechanics of the game. It is purely a conceptual mistake, with dev teams thinking that maximum freedom with a large range of toys is enough work done, without giving us meaningful things to do with them.

A perfect example from another Genre is Battlefield 3- it's got jets, and choppers and tanks and jeeps, but how many singleplayer missions took place entirely within any of those vehicles? Battlefield has all the tools and kit at it's disposal to create the most varied, wide reaching kind of singleplayer gameplay this side of ARMA II- and they utterly blew it because their creative team are, like many creative teams, just programmers. This is why Crysis games always look so good but utterly waste the potential of any plot they have, as do most other games that shoot for cutting edge graphics above all else.

Oh and by the way:

Cues, and a restriction of choice, often lead to the player's greatest enjoyment of a videogame

I find the complete opposite is true. Walking into a courtyard in Call of Duty and seeing a skyscraper fall over or whatever doesn't interest me at all, because I know it's scripted, and will happen that way every single time. Sometimes the game even forces your view towards it. Getting lost in the wilderness in GTA and finally stumbling across a road, and seeing a dirt bike pull up at some lights only to have a 4WD brake too late and shunt the rider right off his bike? Unscripted? Completely random?

Now that's enjoyment

Very nicely done.

I wish I could see that play, but the odds against me getting to NYC in time are fairly high. It sounds like the sort of thing I would enjoy!

Games like Chess and Civilization manages to have practically an infinite amount of choices while at the same time using limited choice to create a framework for the game. So it's not an impossible feat at all.

Often when people talk about choices they think of the 'choose your own adventure' style of choicemaking. Take the left turn or the right turn, be good or evil, save the world or blow it up. These kinds of choices can add to a story but if the game is restricted to these kinds of binary choices it gets very limiting.

I like to refer to the first type of choices as dynamics. Each of them has an impact on the game, but they do not rely on a fixed sequence of events. Instead they are part of a coherent ruleset.

Limiting choices is an important feature of a game, but having them is just as important. Without choices games feel more like interactive storytelling than actual games. For pure storytelling purposes I personally prefer the old passive media because they don't have the limitations of games.

Skyrim is a great modern example of a game that uses infinite choice to make a narrative about a world instead of a linear story.

Katharine Coldiron:
The Perils of Too Much Choice

The bizarre theater experience of Sleep No More illustrates that players don't really want unlimited choice - just the illusion of it.

Read Full Article

Great article on one of the most important paradoxes in any creative endeavor.

Players want "choice" and "freedom" because they think those things will grant them what they really want -- creative power within the game world.

And what do we think of when we picture a "creative" person? A free-thinking, outside-the-box person who's always got some new idea. And then, as we often do, we confuse cause with effect -- this person is creative because they are "free" and "outside-the-box." That just isn't the whole truth, and that's where we get confused.

The creative person wasn't born "outside-the-box," nor do they spend their whole lives out there. They are creative because of the box -- being in the box is what forced them to find a way out. And really, they're just in a new, larger box. They just can't see the walls yet -- and when they finally do? Boom. They can break out again. But they'll only do that when they hit the wall of the box.

Think about any invention. Ever. Think about why it was invented: It was created because someone hit a limitation and had no other way around it. They had to find a new way to solve the problem, because the old solutions were no longer working (or weren't working well enough). If the old solutions were working fine, why invent anything?

And that's the heart of it. Creativity doesn't come from freedom or choice. It comes from limits. The limits are what give us a reason to be creative. All the creative power in the world means nothing without a reason to use it.

When you have the choice to do "anything you want," complete freedom, you'll probably end up doing the same stuff you've always done. Why? While our brains do love novelty, they are also programmed to go with the guaranteed solution. If you can get in through the front door, there's no reason to try the windows or the vents, right? If left to our own devices, we'll go with what's familiar -- we are paralyzed by comfort.

Complete freedom is a bit uncomfortable. This is why jumping out of a plane is a very different experience depending on whether or not you have a parachute. Without one, it's absolutely terrifying, because nothing can stop you from slamming into the ground and making a terrible mess. But just add a parachute... and a helmet... and an instructor... and hours of training... and it's suddenly an exhilarating experience of "free" fall.

How about exploring a cave system? A guide line means the difference between "exploring a cave" and "being lost in a cave." Without that guide line, most folks would be too afraid to venture very far into the dark... but with it, they'll go as far as you'll let them.

All those "limits" serve as anchors. Because we've got the safety equipment and training for when things get rough, we can enjoy the risk more. The sky, the cave, they're both there whether you use them or not, so it's not the "freedom" that's the problem. We need the safety equipment, the limitations, before we can feel it's okay to explore -- adding those limits makes us more likely to use the freedom.

How does this work for games? Right now, I'm playing Skyrim, which is a great example of how this kind of thing can work (and sometimes how not). The central mission/quest/story serves as my "guide line," so I always know how to get back on track. Waypoints and quest logs are my "parachute," helping me recover if I get lost or forget what I was supposed to be doing after being rudely interrupted by a giant or something. I may not always want to follow these guides, but knowing they're there frees me up to explore without fear that I'll miss something important.

Combat, however, is doing the opposite for me. I originally set out with the intent to collect the most bizarre selection of skills I could think of... but in most fights, the "answer" is simple -- bash the skeleton/bandit/etc. -- so I find myself reverting back to sword-and-board tactics (my usual). Why? Because it works, and there's precious little reason to do something different just to "be different." In order to get myself to branch out into the more creative options, I'm hoping the game starts to give me a reason to do it -- like enemies against whom these tactics won't work very well. I'm in need of new limits to help me find my creativity.

Contrast this with Arkham City. By far, a smaller and less-open world. And the storyline isn't all that long. But the combat? At first, I was sticking with the old two-button smash-fest despite all the options available to me, because it dependably got the job done. Then the game starts throwing around enemies in armor, or with shields, or with shock-batons, and these require me to use different tactics. A gadget here, a special move there, and I suddenly begin to feel like Batman. Why? Because the game put a new limit in front of me, and I was forced to get creative and adapt. Like Batman.

So the problem in games isn't that they aren't giving the player creative power. It's that, without enough limits and guidelines, they're often not giving the player a reason to use that creative power. And, as the creatures of comfort we are, that means we usually don't.

(EDIT: Also notice how indie developers are the ones doing new, weird things and creating new paths for gaming to go down. It's because they have to -- they have limited resources and staff and time, and they've got to make those things work.)

Dastardly:
An Excellently worded post.

Honestly I couldn't have said it better myself. It's not the amount of content that matters, it's how it is planned, and presented, to the player.

Good read, but I don't think there is any "peril" in too much choice; it's just preference.

Not every player is playing just to get to the end or to follow the plot. "Immersion" is a key word that gets thrown around while discussing games most often, yet rarely considered. The idea that the fictional world you are inhabiting is bigger than your own experience is appealing to some players because it represents the height of immersion. This is also a huge argument for backtracking, which some love and some hate.

It seems like the goal, if any, of Sleep No More is to immerse you in it's world by making it impossible to see all of it. So paradoxically, by missing out on some of it you are getting the full experience, and one that's unique to you. Sure, some people will be left feeling like they just wasted time seeking reward, but others will appreciate that the seeking is the reward.... it's an old cliche, I know.

Anyway, it's a type of experience that video games and this avant garde theatre project share that traditional theatre, cinema, and literature cannot provide. Some will dig it, some won't.

I've been saying this for a long while: linearity is not a BAD thing.

Some of the greatest game experiences I've had are linear, two of which she mentioned in this article: Bioshock and Portal.

I think the key word she used is "engagement." For those who just want a big sandbox of toys with no structure, that sort of thing is engaging. For those who care about story and setting, a game must provide some sort of structure to be engaging.

The best example I can think of for balancing these two would be Red Dead Redemption. It had a central story focus that was well-structured, but it also had a huge sandbox of old-west fun to play around with.

Good article.

I'm reminded of a game called "The Last Express", which was about some mysterious goings on on the Orient Express, prior to WWI. The idea of the game was that everything was happening in real time, with NPCs going to and fro, carrying out their own objectives. How the game ends depends on who you bump into, and what conversations you over hear, and what objectives you complete over time.

It was an interesting concept, but the game sucks.

There was no order or guidance. I had no real idea why the protagonist was still on the train (early on he gets framed for murder, so getting off the train seems like an obvious thing to do), or what he even wanted. At first it seemed like a sensible enough murder mystery plot, but then half way through the game my character discovers a magical golden bird. Oh, so it is a fantasy story now? I just didn't have a clue what I should be doing, or why I should care about what goes on. The final insult is that the game expects you to do many things without any prompted whatsoever; like knowing when to go to sleep, to progress the plot.

Utter waste of a concept, and it was all down to a lack of direction.

Katharine Coldiron:
...I could tell that it was an enormous amount of effort to create this intricate world, and I never lost the sense that it was theater, even if it was theater I was involved in instead of passively observing. It was a satisfying and fascinating and unforgettable experience, but I am pretty sure I missed most of it, because I was never sure that I was going in the right direction and seeing the things I ought to see....

Cues, and a restriction of choice, often lead to the player's greatest enjoyment of a videogame, and it's in this (and this only) that Sleep No More fails. Its embarrassment of choices meant that I walked away with great appreciation and admiration, but little engagement, and for this reason, it wasn't - as I'd believed it would be - a live-action videogame. I didn't have enough of a sense of where I should go and what I should do to get to the final boss battle and emerge with the feeling that I'd completed the experience.

I'm uneasy about your cheeky comparisons and expectations of the performance medium here. Sleep No More fails as a videogame? I might as well berate Lord of the Flies because the book does not jump up and narrate itself.

It's a performance piece; like a boat race or live music it can never be precisely replicated or repeated again and the personal impact is spectacular, immersive and instant with no re-wind feature. Does your hubby tug your arm and urge you onto another room in Bioshock? Restriction of choice is an impossible condition to lay on theatre as even the most spartan, minimalist production contains ambiguity and suspense enough to create a myriad of choices and interpretations. Whatever happened to "show, don't tell"?

And, please, out of politeness, give the companies (in this case, Punchdrunk) a titled rather than an anonymous mention in future articles.

Squilookle:

Sabrestar:

Cues, and a restriction of choice, often lead to the player's greatest enjoyment of a videogame

I find the complete opposite is true. Walking into a courtyard in Call of Duty and seeing a skyscraper fall over or whatever doesn't interest me at all, because I know it's scripted, and will happen that way every single time. Sometimes the game even forces your view towards it. Getting lost in the wilderness in GTA and finally stumbling across a road, and seeing a dirt bike pull up at some lights only to have a 4WD brake too late and shunt the rider right off his bike? Unscripted? Completely random?

Now that's enjoyment

Even with the openness of a GTA sandbox, there are still many deliberate limitations. You can't open every drawer in a house, you can't go in most houses, or read every piece of paper floating around the street. The game limits you to driving and shooting, which is unlike the Sleep No More experience. In the "play", everything is interactive. Even the scripted events happen In GTA, the missions have to be played in sequence, and every event will only happen with you present. NPCs and cars disappear when you aren't around, so you know you can't miss a thing. So even in the most open sand box games, there is still some sense of railroading, designed in such a way as to make sure you don't miss everything.*

* With the exception of this one time, where I came across an ambulance that had flipped on its side in the middle of the street. No indication of how it had happened, because I wasn't there to see it happen. It looked ridiculous.

Actually, it's the exact opposite for me. I LOVE that kind of stuff. It's confusing? Every thing you see/hear/read gives more question then answers? AWESOME. If I cannot figure out what to do next, and before I know, it's over? I'll try again. And again. And again. An when I'll finally get it, THIS will be the true satisfaction for me. In fact, when I'm trying to figure something out, and suddenly a giant arrow, sudden shift of the camera angle or NPC's voice will instruct me what to do next, I am pissed off to no end. Shut up game, I'm trying to figure it out myself!

I would gladly give my soul, to see experience Sleep No More. Over 9000 times if it would take that many times to figure it out. Shame, it will probably never come to Poland. :(

I respectfully disagree. I think sometimes- frequently- players do, in fact, want, crave, more choice. But they want those choices to be meaningful and fulfilling, and that's where both video games and the above-mentioned theater experience run into their limitations. If Sleep No More could track where every member of the audience had gone and what every member of the audience had seen, do you think that perhaps they could have had a better chance of tailoring a satisfactory conclusion that would bring those themes together into something cohesive?

The tech isn't there yet, and the design spec isn't in place, and for all that, the sheer amount of work necessary to make a game with something approaching real openness while providing meaning, coherence, and fulfillment in those choices may never come into fruition, but I'd caution against mistaking the inability to reach the ideal for the ideal itself being somehow unworthy or inappropriate.

Our medium is full of kludges and tropes and standards. Good path, Evil path. Worst Ending, Bad Ending, Good Ending, Good+ ending, Best Ending. "Sandbox" game with inescapable linear plot with basically no choices within its confines. Mini-game diversions from a lack of main-game content. Routing to make sure the player appreciates the maximum amount of the content the developer has been working on, and/or spends the least amount of time in/on the areas the dev had to cut corners on to meet deadline. We've developed a set of expectations, and we're content when they're fulfilled well, and that's not necessarily a bad thing- but it doesn't mean we should stop trying to push those boundaries.

One could make a game of Portal in which Chell getting dumped into the fire was itself a meaningful (if tragic, or tragi-comic) ending to Portal; The Stanley Parable, without giving too much away, sort of does just that. Games like the Fallout series and Arcanum did some work towards making the player's ending more than just "good ending" or "bad ending" but the cumulation of all the most significant choices the player made during their run of the game. And while Bioshock in some ways was thematically about not having choice, it also gave the player a tremendous amount of leeway in how they chose to go about their objectives, from what powers and weapons they wanted to focus on to (I remembered with surprise and delight) whether or not they wanted to address one particular powerful adversary at all.

Conversely, I recently played (groan) Duke Nukem Forever. And while many of the tropes mentioned in this article can be handled gracefully, DNF makes an eloquent case of just how much worse a game can be when they're handled clumsily. For a game in which every NPC is clearly just a switch waiting to be triggered, every enemy is clearly waiting for nothing but the hero's arrival, and the game is at pains to paint the hero himself as a powerful figure who does things his own way, the game absolutely railroads the player through "this is the only way past this point" settings, disposable weapons in an inadequate inventory forcing the player to use whatever is at hand rather than choosing their tools, and interactive objects that serve little more than to highlight just how barren the "world" as an experience really is. It's like a roller coaster full of animatronics set to twitch and say their lines when the car goes by, and the player becomes increasingly aware that the ride would do the same set of canned responses whether the passenger was in that car or not; the player is superfluous to the experience almost to the point of the designer's seeming to resent their presence.

Summation: we're still dealing with failures in the medium to make more player choices feel fulfilling and meaningful; don't throw out the baby with the bathwater in assuming the player wanting to make those choices is the problem.

Lemme just sum this up with a great big.... WROOOOOOOONNNNNNGGGGG

ares5566:
Lemme just sum this up with a great big.... WROOOOOOOONNNNNNGGGGG

Care to expand on that?

Meh, it depends on who's playing the game, I know plenty of people who are just like GIMME MORE STUFF TO DO NOW and are prone to RPG's, I'm not keen on RPG's because I like a good linear story because sometimes I get overwhelmed, but Skyrim is pretty fun, and it doesn't go too overboard on sidequests, because I choose not to do some, and I know what I want to do and what I don't want to. And that's fine. The GTA series is a nice hybrid, having an over all story, and even though there might be a couple of missions to do at once, they all pertained to the main plot, and so I could do them at my own leisure. San Andreas at some points it felt like I lost my grasp on what was going on/why is this important, but over all the series has been great.

The point is, some people love more stuff to do, and some people get overwhelmed/prefer a linearmore linear story where the set is part of the story, rather then just a place where the story takes place. There really is no right answer, it comes down to personal preference, and games are made and played accordingly. The Half-Life series would have sucked (IMO) as an open-world game becuase we wouldn't have the impressive setpieces and awesome linear story, instead we'd have a different story that would have been broken up. Skyrim would maybe not suck, but if it was a linear story in a linear setting would be a hack-n-slash with RPG elements, and it would be a muucchhh shorter game.

Yes, there should be limits. No, they shouldn't be that restricting. People want freedom, and by giving them a reasonable amount of freedom, it makes people come back.

I've got nothing to say on this, except that on my monitor, the text was so tiny, it looked like 'the penis of too much choice' and I had to find out what the hell the OP was on about!

I think what the article and the subsequent posts in the thread tell me is that it's all relative.

There's no one answer because each and everyone of us have different tastes. Some might like to be hand-held all throughout the game, seeing scripted explosions and deaths, while others like to go out of their way to see what they can do within the constraints of the game, ignoring the guides.

I agree somewhat with the article. I like freedom, but I don't like complete freedom, because I'd be lost and chopping wood until I die from a creeper. And then build a fort, I guess? I don't know. The whole metaphor's not working if you start picking at it.

The illusion of freedom within a constrained game gets boring fast, personally anyway - how many pedestrians can you kill in GTA before you get bored of the whole thing?

Skyrim's a good example, as mentioned previously by posters more eloquent than I. Looking forward to how well it can progress. Also looking forward to SR3, but for different reasons. I believe it'll be more akin to a GTA experience - but I haven't got my copy yet, so I'll be waiting before passing judgement.

I can see where your trying to go with this article but i do not fully agree.Also to answer the bioshock question people got through those types of games and missed huge amount of the backstory and still enjoyed them games.Also the portal question gamers with go back to the old favourite trial and error as this is how the world works.

If they didn't games without game tutorials or maybe even just bad ones would not survive.Trial and error can be some of the best parts of a experince but thats the difference between film and theater vs games.Games can drop you into a world while saying go do what you want as things will always happen.While theater can not do the same because theater and films ca not adapt to the person viewing the experince

The perfect example against this theory that the illusion of freedom is better than freedom is Skyrim.You have a world where you have alot of freedom you can do the main quest,you can go fight dragons or you can read all the books in the game while sitting in your house.More freedom gives the player the choice of how they want to play the game.

I have found myself wandering around the skyrim country side with no goal in mind still fully enjoying the experince.

Oh, boy... where to begin?
This comment is in danger of becoming longer than the original article, so I will try to be brief.

Comparing such a performance to a game seems unwise, though I think I see where you were going with the comparison. The experience left you unsatisfied, because it was unstructured. I think the remedy to that is one at which games excel, namely replay. While it seems like it would be wise to revisit Sleep No More in an attempt to further understand what you missed the first time, even that would be a pale comparison to a game's ability to allow endless repetition of the same scenarios from every angle.

There are two kinds of freedom that I can think of, there are the limitations of the game mechanics, such as gravity for the most obvious example. Being unable to fly creates obstacles, which create gameplay. Then there is the ability to do whatever you want, within the confines of gameplay. That is, if you can unlock a door, you can unlock it regardless of the game state. The limitations of freedom which infuriate me are those which are arbitrary.

As many of the other comments have said, I have been playing Skyrim. I have at no point been angered by my inability to fly, even when the dragons are playing hard to get. I have been reduced to frothing incoherence by the realisation that certain npcs are plot-armoured and unkillable. Why? Because the game and its designers do not want me ruining their precious questlines. Personally I think I am mature enough to handle the consequences of my actions. If I decide someone needs to die, even if it's the High Queen herself, I expect to be able to kill her, even if it entirely breaks the rest of the plot. If I derail the story by my own actions, I will accept that responsibility. The game, however, appears to think I am a child who will burst into tears the moment his actions have negative consequences. This I think is the heart of it. Freedom of action means the freedom to do things wrong. Skyrim does not allow you that freedom. You CANNOT fail, no matter what you do. That is just insulting.

I understand why Skyrim was built the way it is, and from a lot of the comments it is fairly obvious that a majority of the players would not want a game in which their actions could make 'winning' impossible. That's why it holds your hand and shelters you from bad things. The greatest counter-example that I know of is Gothic. Gothic 3 allows you to do pretty much whatever you like, within the systemic constraints, and in consequence it is really easy to irretrievably bugger up the whole world. Which is why it's relatively unpopular.

So much more to say, but I really have to stop.
To the comments :

#4 Baresark, 'You could literally just walk around killing things and do nothing else if that is what you want to do.' No, you can't. It won't let you.

#17 Dastardly, On exploring a cave : with a safety line, the danger of death is severely reduced. There is no danger of death in a game, therefore the point is irrelevant. On jumping out of a plane : without a parachute you have LESS choices than with a parachute. On necessity being the mother of invention, you are confusing game limits with player limits. If you find an enemy that can only be killed in a certain way, you must be creative. If you try to kill an npc, you will find a limit which no amount of creativity will overcome, within the game.

I'm not arguing that endless freedom is universally good, that debate is another post longer than this one. Anyone who read this far without skipping anything, thanks and good job! You are an excellent person.

maninahat:
Good article.

I'm reminded of a game called "The Last Express", which was about some mysterious goings on on the Orient Express, prior to WWI. The idea of the game was that everything was happening in real time, with NPCs going to and fro, carrying out their own objectives. How the game ends depends on who you bump into, and what conversations you over hear, and what objectives you complete over time.

It was an interesting concept, but the game sucks.

There was no order or guidance. I had no real idea why the protagonist was still on the train (early on he gets framed for murder, so getting off the train seems like an obvious thing to do), or what he even wanted. At first it seemed like a sensible enough murder mystery plot, but then half way through the game my character discovers a magical golden bird. Oh, so it is a fantasy story now? I just didn't have a clue what I should be doing, or why I should care about what goes on. The final insult is that the game expects you to do many things without any prompted whatsoever; like knowing when to go to sleep, to progress the plot.

Utter waste of a concept, and it was all down to a lack of direction.

how old was that game? it sounds like a very interesting concept...stuff hapening in "real time" thouhg as you pointed out..difficult to pull off

Huh, I hadn't thought about this. This truly was a bit of an enlightening article, and definitely something that I wish the Extra Credits team was still here to comment on.

Thanks for the little insight into the bits of choice. This is really an interesting thing that I hadn't thought about.

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