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Emotion in Gaming: Choices/Regrets

Emotion in Gaming: Choices/Regrets


Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by…

Those words so poignantly written by Robert Frost have been with me ever since I was able to understand them. You might be wondering why I’d start this piece off with a quote from a poem but it is important to me, from a very young age the choices that were made for us and even the choices we were allowed make for ourselves have impacted on us, they have shaped who we are as people and what kind of experiences we have lived. We make choices every single day, some big ones, lots of small ones but no matter their size they will all have an impact. With choices come regrets! Staring backwards longly and inquisitively at what could have been, what would be different and who you would be now!

We all make choices when it comes to gaming – some of us choose Xbox others choose Nintendo, some choose FPS while others pick puzzle, some choose to play casually others choose to invest their lives. That’s not what I want to talk about though, sure those decisions are important but picking a flight simulator game over a racing game can be pegged as a personal preference as opposed to a life altering decision! I want to talk about the ability to choose within video games, while it’s hardly a new phenomenon it has changed and grown an awful lot in the last few years, as with this series, I’ll draw from several examples but I will have one focus and there could only be one game when talking about the power of choice and the weight of regret, Telltale’s game, ‘The Walking Dead’.

Talking about choices and video games conjures up numerous images and talking points, today gamers are given a wealth of options from difficulty level to character customisation and we’ve never been freer (or at least felt freer) than ever before and the Fable series is the perfect diving board to get us started. In Fable you can be good or you can be evil, you can choose to help villagers and townsfolk or you can opt for the nasty choice and pillage/plunder your way through the dusty streets. Your moral compass in the games plays very much like the God game, ‘Black and White’, doing good things gives you a smug glow and holier than thou badge while playing the cruel villain offers you a dark demeanour and air of notoriety that spreads like a plague.
It’s too simple in the grand scheme of things, while I’ll always do my best to play the good guy, those handy shortcuts are too tempting and there is only so much temptation one can resist! Life isn’t like that though or so I’ve come to learn with my 27 years on this planet! Right and wrong isn’t a simple choice! It’s not one or the other! What I choose to understand as good can be inherently different to what you choose to believe.

Life is full of tough choices and we will all have to make a few/lot in our lifetime! These aren’t the decisions you make and never think about, these are the kinds of decisions that steer you in life, that change your world and affect you on a daily basis. They don’t evaporate to the corners of your mind after your done, they linger and they haunt forcing you to second guess and doubt. Did I make the right call?
Very few games have impacted on me like ‘The Walking Dead’ series and while I’ve invested a lot of emotion into various games over the years none have ever evoked as powerful a reaction as these games have.

You are Lee Everett, a convicted felon, en route to prison when the world comes to an end and the face and population of the planet are turned into a legion of the undead. Over the course of five episodes you will meet other survivors, struggle, fight and choose your path, with each choice opening one way and closing another to you.
Decisions and choices like who gets the last of the remaining rations, who do you share your past with and who do you give your spare weapon to aren’t just points on a story, they feel like impossible moments with your hand forced only because of a ticking clock.
You don’t just end up playing Lee Everett, you are ultimately becoming the man, his choices are yours and as you navigate your way through the ravaged world, your only goal is to survive and protect your companion, Clementine, a little girl who becomes your only reason to keep fighting. That’s what we all do when faced with tough choices, we look for something or someone to pull us through and fallback on, the choices, for the briefest of moments feel like they are no longer up to us when there is something to achieve or reach but that moment is fleeting.

You’ve made your choice and now come the consequences and the regrets! Had you done something differently? Acted or said something a different way? Would it all be different? In video games we have the chance to replay and regrets are fleeting but it’s different when it comes to ‘The Walking Dead’, you chose to save some and let others die, you chose to lie and hide your past, these decisions feel like they come from a deeper place than just your brain on a playthrough of another game!
By the end of the game you are left with nothing, a summary of your tribulations that in some small part I believe, reflect on you as a person . I tried to replay the game but I was forcing my hand, these weren’t the decisions I made before and despite my regrets, it just didn’t feel natural to me so I left the game and my journey behind me. That’s the handiest thing about video games though unlike life they can be switched off.

So here we are now at this moment in time and I’m feeling a little overcome by nostalgia, it’s hard to compose my thoughts when it comes to thinking about all the choices I’ve made that have brought me to this point. I am 27 years old and at times it feels like I carry the weight of the world with me, who am I as a person? We all have those moments when everything goes quiet and there is nothing to do but turn inwards and examine (often in excruciating detail) every little choice we’ve made.
Regrets go hand and hand with every decision but wishing you could change your past is like fighting against the tide. Remember that who ever you are, no matter what you’ve done, that person, is someone who came to be through your own strength and will and there is no power in the world that should or can force you to choose differently.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.