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FEATURED VOXPOP oblivion437 Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that.  It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece.  I strongly recommend anyone...

DAILY MANIFESTO

Does Your First Playthrough Reflect Who You Are?

Posted on Monday, March 17 @ 13:32:18 Eastern by

Monday at GDC, if you don't already know, is the best day of the entire conference. Not for news, or for panels with famous speakers, or for behind-closed-doors appointments with games you haven't even heard of yet, but for breathing room. The rest of the week is chock full of people, and as Cartman would say at an amusement park, there's nothing worse than the lines, the lines, the lines.
 
Instead, Monday is reserved for summits, the Game Narrative Summit in particular, whose panels are reserved for the story and dialogue of video games, the part that's unfortunately often neglected. It is here that William Pugh and Davey Wieden of Galactic Cafe, the indie developer behind the breakout, existential platformer The Stanley Parable, posed numerous questions about choices. At the beginning of the game, what are the decisions or self-negotiations that happen in your head before you chose the left door, thereby following the narrator's instructions, or actively disobey his orders and head toward the right door? Since choosing one or the other doesn't seem to have an advantage or disadvantage, the choice seems pinned to merely who you are as a person.
 
That instantly provoked me to ask whether your very first playthrough of a game, before you know the consequences of making any decisions, is truly a reflection of who you are as both a person and a player. If you choose to sacrifice the first Little Sister in Bioshock without knowing the difference between how much ADAM, does that mean you're inherently an egotistical maniac? If you decide to save Megaton in Fallout 3 the first time through, are you inherently a person who believes in good karma? If you're an evil prick throughout all of Fable III, but then change your mind for one instance to save an NPC character because he's been a friend, are you a bastard with the heart of a softie when it counts?
 
This question of your morality in the face of lack of knowledge can be blurred of course if you're the type of player who wishes to role-play as the avatar given to you by the developer. Being cast into the role of, say, a paladin might color your decision to follow a heroic path, just as playing a muscular anti-hero with anger-management issues might make you shoot first and ask questions later.
 
Also, the influence of wikis and strategy guides can distort your decision. I'm the kind of player who hates dying and, if a boss gives me considerable trouble, will scour through forums for information before confronting it once again. I will even look up the consequences for making one choice over another, though even with a guide, I tend to pick the good option, in part because it usually makes the game harder and because I think I'm a nice person (hey, don't roll your eyes at me!).
 
So how about you? To what extent do the moral choices you make during your first playthrough in a game say anything about you? Are you a prick in games because you feel like you're being too nice in real life? On the flipside, are you generally cooperative and helpful in games because you feel like you're too much of a prick in real life?
Tags:   GDC, evergreen
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