Choice and The Stanley Parable...

Seeing how different game creators attempt to make a believable world fascinates me. I mean “believable” in the sense that the world gives the player real choice; where there’s a sense of unpredictability. There are board games, like Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne, where the board changes each time you play, or open world adventures, like Skyrim or Fable, that allow you to choose what quests to complete. However, there is always a limitation to the player’s choices (an exception is Dungeons & Dragons or other tabletop role-playing games where the dungeon master writes narratives on demand. But even then, the DM is limited by setting, characters, and background if she wants to create a realistic experience). Perhaps this limitation of choice reflects reality. Maybe, regardless of what we do, the world is destined for the same fate. Perhaps Fable has it right; the final fate of the world is destined and all we can control is our own morality. Not long ago, I was introduced to the video game The Stanley Parable. In the game, you are Stanley. You work in an office where you are tasked to monitor data on your computer and press buttons as you are told. The game begins by telling you that you’ve done this diligently for quite some time, but you notice now that no information is being sent to your computer. A little puzzled, you get up and leave your desk to investigate what’s happening, and that’s where the story begins. If our actions didn’t matter, what would be the point be of acting? I should say the stories begin there. The game attempts to give the player real choice by regularly offering options for action, each of which changes the storyline. As you walk through the...