The Only Winning Move

This article contains spoilers for Spec Ops: The Line and early spoilers for Undertale

In my previous article I compare the actions-with-consequences that are forced upon you by two games: the excellent Spec Ops: The Line and the amusing Accounting. These are actions that garner much criticism from the games’ characters but are outside the control of the player – they are the only options presented and the game doesn’t proceed until you take them. I tried to argue that being criticised for such forced decisions in Accounting is annoying but it is tolerable (and maybe laudable) in Spec Ops because it fully embraces this theme as a means to empathise with the protagonist. In Spec Ops you play the tunnel-visioned Captain Walker who sees no alternatives to his actions and stubbornly forges onward without considering the bigger picture. The game’s story introduces tragedies that are then the result of this obstinance and openly blames Captain Walker for them. Spec Ops then goes further by telling Walker (and perhaps also the player) that these hideous consequences could have been avoided if only he “just stopped”. But what does this mean in gameplay terms?

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Don’t Blame Me – I Had No Choice!

An irresponsible splurge recently had me picking up one of those HTC Vives and so I’ve been lost in a wonderland of Virtual Reality. I’ll write up an article some time about my experiences with VR but for now I’d like to write about one particular game, the recently-released Accounting by William Pugh (of Stanley Parable) and Justin Roiland (of Rick and Morty). Don’t consider this to be a review, but rather a jumping off point for a discussion about decision-making and player responsibility in games. Actually, no wait, I’ll give a short one-sentence review of Accounting right now. It’s very entertaining and terribly fun, but I don’t know if I would even call it a game.

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I Don’t Trust these Goddamn Guys

The game begins with your return to Dunwall and you are soon met by the ugliest man in the world. “Corvo, two days early,” he says in a weedy yet arrogant voice, “Full of surprises, as usual.” I wonder what the chances are of this man turning out to be a villain, and estimate it to be around one in one. Two minutes later he has guards arrest you next to the body of the slain Empress. I don’t think this is a spoiler, since it happens in the opening minutes and, really, is the premise that begins the game. This article will be full of other spoilers, though, so don’t read on if you plan to play Dishonored. It really is a truly excellent game. After you’ve played it, read on as I bitterly criticise it.

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