Sunday, April 24, 2016

Make your game even more interesting: Emotional and Moral Choices

Two posts ago, we discussed the mechanism of creating a Logical Conclusion Choice step by step. Today I'd like tell you how to add another layer of involvement for the reader through attacking his emotions or his moral.

Before I give you the details of step 8 of the Logical Conclusion Choice process, I would like to remind you once again that in order to create truly interesting choices, all of the options given to the reader should have mixed positive and negative consequences just like it is in real life: gain one thing at the expense of another. Example: To avoid being hit by a lightning in the fast approaching thunderstorm, you decide to run for the caves in the distant giant cliff structure. You lose 10 points of health due to exhaustion and the fact that you get soaking wet before you are able to take cover. However, you find an artifact. A magic sword with special abilities, for an example.

Step 8: Involve the player even further through adding a layer of emotional or moral reasons or consequences.

Example of Emotional Layer: in my Visual Gamebook Adventure that takes place in the Star Wars universe, you are told at the beginning of the story that as a little kid you witnessed the death of your parents by the hands of the imperial stormtroopers. Later in the adventure, you are given the choice to kill as many of them as possible to get revenge for your family's suffering. Of course, you want to kill them! After all, they murdered your family. However, given the circumstances at the moment, that is not the best choice, because you kill 10 of them and your blaster runs out of battery, so you have no choice but to retreat. That choice provides you the satisfaction of revenge at the expense of your laser gun, but it also gives you an advantage if you follow a certain path in the middle of the adventure.

Example of Moral Layer: I am going to quote Aston Saylor again here: "Consider this: The orcs have taken your friend hostage, and will kill him if you attack. But taking this step constitutes an act of war, and they must be punished. Will you attack (utilizing your combat skills) knowing they will kill your friend, but determined to crush the orcs once and for all and claim their valuable treasure? Or will you negotiate (using your diplomacy skills), suffering the humiliation in order to hopefully save the life of your friend".

Let me stress this out once again: Make your choices difficult with complicated consequences where you gain one thing at the expense of another! Only partially reveal the outcome before the choice is made and let the reader guess what the other consequences of his decision could be, but don't you ever cheat him into making the wrong choice! Just let the player be in the driver seat!

I personally love how sometimes in gamebooks the choice seems bad at the moment, because you lose something, but then later on in the adventure, that turns out for the better. Example: in the Star Wars Adventure, if you kill some of the stormtroopers, you have a bleeding fleshwound and a drop of your blood falls onto the scanner of the R2D2 robot, letting it recognize the fact that you carry the jedi gene. Another example: in the "Last Fortress" by Ashton, you lose the treasure of your people and your master blacksmith in an attempt to save as many of your people as possible in the snowstorm that comes through the mountains, but later on you are awarded much more as a result of that difficult choice. This technique creates great tension in the adventure, because you know that you made the right choice, but you still lost items and people and you are not sure if you are ever going to be rewarded for making the emotionally difficult, but morally right decision. I'll do another post on the very needed illusions of danger and achievement for every game, not only in the genre of gamebooks.

In this line of thinking, I must mention another very important idea here: the moral responsibility of the game writers and creators. One of my favorite slogans is "with great power comes great responsibility". Believe it or not, the media, the television and especially games install certain patterns of behavior in the kids and young adults through the process of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Check out the Power of Suggestion theory! We, the authors, have the great responsibility to make sure that we encourage the good and we punish the bad behavior. We are literally programming the mentality of our next generation, so don't encourage bad moral choices through rewarding immoral decisions in your games! If you decide to expose the reader to the emotional garbage of real life, at least make sure to clearly define the difference between good and evil in the adventure and properly reward only the morally good choices, so the message you send to the reader's mind is making him a better person. That way you are reinforcing his future success in real life and creating a better human society for generations to come.

Peter Agapov
Game Designer at
President and Chief Executive Officer of American Limo Naperville
Former Road Captain of Marine One at Operation "Welcome You Home"

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