Rampant Games - Small Choices
Jay Barnson has an excellent post on choices in RPGs, discussing the practical reality of choices impacting the gameworld, the disappointing implementation in many games but how small choices can work when well designed:
As a gamer, we want deeply meaningful decisions that can change the whole course of the story, a la the old Choose Your Own Adventure books. We want big, dramatic decisions with big, dramatic consequences.
Unfortunately, reality dictates that we must usually settle for something less. Too often it’s a lot less, and we get stupid decisions that feel meaningless for all their overwrought set-up. Worse, these decisions are given all kinds of moral gravity – you are required to choose between goody-two-shoes, evil jerkwad psychopath, or Rhett Butler “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” responses that feel forced and doesn’t often match your (or your characters) interpretation of a situation. (Yeah, I’m picking on Bioware again a little here, but it’s not just them).
It’s like the designers want to give us these great big, dramatic decisions, but it ends up being all sound and fury signifying nothing. Or very little. We get the set-up, but not the payoff.