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Veteran Member - Level 11
For some of us the hardest decisions we ever have to make
is, "Do I press B4 and get the Chili-flavored Fritos or C7 and get the peanut
M&Ms." Others have to routinely make decisions on the fly that could have
life changing implications. As I reflect on my own life and the experiences
unique to me, I'm not so sure I've ever had to make a truly "hard" decision
with the gravity of life or death weighing it down. Sure, some were difficult
and uncomfortable to make, but not necessarily hard.
One time in Iraq I felt there was a soldier who was
potentially a threat to himself and/or others, so I stripped him of his weapon
and had him escorted to the medical facilities for a psychological evaluation.
Again, an uncomfortable spot to be in because it could have affected his career
or his family if nothing was found to be wrong, but in the end it was the right
thing to do so any kind of displeasure I might've felt was short lived.
I had a case of road rage with another *ahem* gentleman (I'm
being polite) that escalated out of control a lot further than what it
should've...threats were made...and some perceived threatening actions were taken.
Thankfully cooler heads prevailed and I didn't make any rash decisions or else
I might be penning this blog from behind bars with Bubba my cell mate reading
over my shoulder. It was a situation with few options, but I wouldn't
necessarily say it was a hard decision.
No, when I think of hard choices, I think of the President
of the United States ordering troops into battle, policemen who have to make
that split decision to use deadly force to subdue a threat or deciding whether
to volunteer to be a Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO) and having to be
the one that breaks the news to the family who loses a loved one in the line of
duty. Those are some hard choices to make.
Perhaps this is why I am fascinated with games that force
you into making difficult decisions you would otherwise never have to make in
your lifetime. Now, I'm in no way suggesting the hard choices that are made in
real life compare to the hard choices we make in the virtual world, but for
someone who never has to make those mentally, and often times physically,
challenging decisions...it can sure feel like the same.
When I look at the last handful of games or so that I've
finished lately, I realize I've enjoyed them all...and I've also realized they
mostly have this in common - they all required me to make one of those hard
decisions I'm talking about; the kind that will likely result in a definite
outcome that often looks and smells like death.
Mass Effect 2 is often praised for its grand finale that is
also known as the suicide missions - a series of events you and your team must
experience at great peril and with high probability that some will die along
the way. I'm not sure how or why, but unfortunately I didn't fare so well
saving my party. Many perished along the way. Having played the game awhile ago
I have since read about strategies and techniques to minimize the casualties;
I've even read it is possible to get everybody through it alive. Honestly though,
I don't know that I would classify the Mass Effect 2 decisions as all that
difficult. The difference between Mass Effect 2 and some of these other games I
have played recently that do force you into demanding situations is this...
When you play Mass Effect 2 or games like it, you at least
feel like your team has a chance - there is hope...death was never a certain
outcome. I didn't send any of my teammates on a mission thinking they didn't
have a shot at surviving. With each order I issued, there was a small shred of
me hoping this particular team mate would live to see another day. And as one
after another fell, that hope never diminished. It's for this reason I wouldn't
classify these as hard choices.
Hard choices are when failure is probable or death is
inevitable, and you know it...you are aware of it. You realize lives will be lost
and yet you make that decision anyway. You have to.
Now, at this point you might be wondering, "What in the
world games is he playing?" You might even assume I'm referring to The Walking
Dead, since so many have commented on that game and its hard choices - and you
do make some difficult choices in that game, but I don't know if I would
classify them as "hard" choices - the kind you know the outcome. Similar to
Mass Effect 2, in The Walking Dead you quickly learn whatever choice you make,
there is a near certain outcome that is not going to be favorable, but you
still hold out hope that some way, somehow...the impossible will be the possible.
I don't want to spoil the game, but if you've played the final episode you know
you are presented with a number of scenarios that are hard to accept, and you
hold out hope that you'll find a way to skirt the inevitable. The truth is, it is
one of the games I played and finished recently, but it's not one of the ones
with hard choices.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned Mark of the Ninja. At the end
of the game you are faced with two options with a very clear outcome. This
decision was so much harder to make than any of the others I had to make in
Mass Effect or The Walking Dead. Why? Because the outcome was certain. If I
picked one path, then x would happen; and if I picked the other, then y would
happen. There wasn't much room left for hope. I think about how my decisions in
Mass Effect 2 might've been different if I was given the same scenarios but
knew the outcome of each - would the decisions have been more challenging to
The other game I played was Far Cry 3. Far Cry 3 was a
whirlwind of a game with twists and turns at every corner. I would have never
predicted some of the events that happened, but I totally did not see the
events that transpired near the end of the game. Again, I don't want to spoil
it or give anything away, but there is a situation that literally comes down to
pull the left trigger for this decision, or the right trigger for this decision...and
you know...you can just sense that whichever one you pick, something is going to
happen with the other. This mechanic makes making the decision so much harder.
There is no hope that it won't. By pulling the trigger, you seal the fate of
one or the other.
The emotional rollercoaster that comes with making a
challenging decision...a life and death decision...can manifest itself with a
number of physical and emotional symptoms. It's a feeling some of us will never
experience in real life, and would never want to experience in real life. But with
the great games we have available, we are able to immerse ourselves into
situations that thrust us into these scenarios where we must not only act, but
we must also feel the weight of those decisions.
I get your point about Mark of the Ninja, but one thing that made the choices in Walking Dead so tense was the "here are your options, choose NOW" approach to decision making. For me, that is as pretty close to real life as you can get in a simulation. Your overall point is very valid, though. I've had to make one life or death decision in my life (not getting into that here) and being forced to think on the fly and having almost no time to reach your conclusion really sucks. I think that's why Walking Dead stood out so much to me. To be fair, I have yet to play Far Cry 3, so I can't comment on that story (I know, if I could only add 3 more hours a day).
Tough decisions in gaming are really become one of the greatest things. The R/R System(Risk & Reward) makes a player totally understand that there are consequences that might affect their playthrough, but it doesn't stop there, does it? It also spikes the curiosity of a player to REPLAY the game, as well as see what awaits the player and how will it affect him. It's not like in Real Life, where you can't just go back and replay your actions to choose different choices. But at least in Gaming, it totally gives the player that option.
Great blog as usual, Saint.
Fire emblem, awakening man.
That's an easy decision....peanut M&Ms all the way.
I have to admit, I chose the ending in Far Cry 3 without hardly thinking, but I won't spoil why for those who haven't played it. Personally I like a good mixture of games in my library that are linear, that have strong choice consequences and different outcomes, and games that are hybrids of both, the sort of "play your way" games (like Bioshock and Dishonored). Nice blog and a very good point.
I love games that your decisions have consequences. Like Skybreaker34 said, I had a blast playing Dishonored because of my decisions and what they caused. Great blog Saint.
It's games like Far Cry 3, the Mass Effect series, and TWD Episodes that get my blood pumping with their decisions. It's the situations they put you in...
I am intrigued by your definition of "hard choices" as life or death decisions. In my book, your personal example of stripping a solider of his weapon qualifies just as much as a hard choice. For me, sure The Walking Dead featured multiple life and death choices. What made those moments emotional were the countless preceding decisions of choosing the lesser evil and living with the simple consequence of "Clementine will remember that." In real life, most of us aren't making life and death decisions but our countless daily actions are remembered and recorded by others as indicators of who we are. Ah, just my thoughts. Good blog.
I remember a certain decision in Mass Effect 3 had me staring at the screen, trying to decide what to do. That was when I knew it was one of my favorite games of the year. I can't really think of any other game that made me stop and think like that. I'm gonna have to try Mark of the Ninja now lol.
Just about any RPG made by Bioware (KOTOR, Dragon Age, Mass Effect) has the best decision making mechanics out of any games I've ever played. I've never really experienced any real life or death decisions, as you have in the military (I am scheduled for MEPS soon (USMC)). Great article!
im jealous of the amount of free time you seem to have.