…takes another trot around the block, though by now the poor critter isn’t much more than bones. Over at rpgwatch the other day, they had a piece up on – dare I say it? (sure!) – player manipulation in games.

We’ve pretty well talked this one out, I think. We know that once in the box (even pre-patch), the game is a done deal. Nothing we can do can change that, because the story is fixed, as in most any other narrative types.

Typically, there’s the One True Path to the One Good Ending. Sometimes, there may be multiple paths, leading to two or more finales, though even in that case, usually only one is “good” or “best”.

The folks at rpgwatch, most especially Corwin (who brought up the topic), feel the designers are manipulating the players. Umm, well, yes, of course they are. They always have, and most likely, always will.

The trick is whether that Machiavellian scheme can be glossed over to give players the illusion of free choice (or as free as the game code can accomodate).

Corwin objects most to feeling railroaded, to being pushed along a particular path. Then he tries to do something opposite, just to show he “can’t be manipulated”. I think he’s fighting a losing battle there.

As a rule, you can only do what the game allows for. If there’s some way around that, it’s usually a coding flaw that will likely break the game. Possibly make it totally unwinnable.

All RPGs, even the apparently open ones like Oblivion, are railroads in the end. Whether the story chugs due north, or has branches east and west, there is a line to follow. At best, you can change from one track to another – and may yet find yourself at a convergence of all.

So everything is illusion. Smoke and mirrors. What counts is the story. The journey. What happens to you (and everyone else) as you ride along from the depot to the end of the line.

If you don’t like the trip, then the developers haven’t done their job properly. Besides, we know the tale is fixed from the start, and we agree to that by playing the game. Alll Abbbooarrd!!!

Manipulation And Perversion on rpgwatch