In the “Call of Duty” series, games make you a soldier fighting for what’s right. In the “Civilization” series, they make you a benevolent or mighty ruler who brings peace or destruction to the world.
Either way, they empower people. They allow players to become someone else for a time, to make choices and decisions that matter, that have weight and consequence. This act of making important choices means a great deal to people in general, not just video game players. Choices make people feel powerful because it means that others look to them for advice or leadership, which makes everyone feel good.
This is the reason why decision-based video games are becoming so popular now.
In 2012’s “The Walking Dead” video game, the player is charged with choosing how to navigate a world overrun by zombies. What they say, how they act and who they trust is all up to the player. The story of the game changes based on what the player chooses to do. For example, early in the game the player is given the option to save one of two companions from zombies. Other characters in the game will have opinions based on the choice you made and the story will evolve and change to suit the player’s unique choice set.
The pacing of the game is similar to the TV show featuring similar amounts of dialogue that the player can choose, creating a different game for everyone. Ultimately, the player is in the driver’s seat the whole time. What they say goes.
“The Walking Dead” was met by such a positive response that a sequel was made and many other games have been created using similar mechanics to try and replicate the success. Games like “Life Is Strange” have tried, and succeeded, in recreating the magic that “The Walking Dead” has for choice-based games.
The reason why these games are so popular is because the player is in charge, making decisions that matter and have meaningful impacts on the story of the game. This makes people feel important, like they have control in something they care about, which might not be the case in real life.
This is the core of video games as a whole, to give the player choice and agency over the events in any game. It could be as simple as choosing how to fight a battle in a shooter or how to govern an empire in a strategy game. Choice is one of the reasons why people choose to play games over watching movies or reading books. It’s more engaging.
This power of decision-making is especially highlighted in choice-based games like “The Walking Dead.” Video games are at the height of their greatness when they can deliver on that desire for people to make meaningful choices.
No genre of video games does this better than choice-based games, which is why they are not just here to stay, but will become even more prominent in the future.
Hebert, a junior journalism major from Greensboro, is an A&E reporter.