DiscardedYKTTW IllusionOfChoice YKTTW Discussion

A game makes you think you can make a decision, but you really can't.
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(permanent link) added: 2012-09-30 17:02:28 sponsor: SemiCasualObserver (last reply: 2012-10-02 23:51:44)

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This is when a videogame offers you the ability to make a decision and then denies you any meaningful consequences for your choice.

Imagine that you've reached the final climax of the story, or at least a minor one along the way, and suddenly you're presented with a list of options. After considering your choices, you decide to save, and then pick one of these and proceed to the end of the plot. Having seen the story play out one way, you then reload your save and pick a different choice, hoping to see a different outcome. Then you see pretty much exactly the same thing as before.

Programming a real Branching Plot, even in a game with Multiple Endings, is time consuming and expensive, and becomes more so the further back along the timeline of the game you go. Consequently, something that a lot of developers will do is provide you with options, and then give you an identical or nearly identical gameplay experience without regard to your decision. There are several ways this can be done:

A. You have multiple options, but there's only one that actually counts. All the others lead, slowly or quickly, to a Non-Standard Game Over, or a But Thou Must declaration.

B. You have multiple options, but all they do is make a minor cosmetic change to the story you'd play out anyway.

C. You have multiple options, but as soon as you've made a decision something in the game will happen that invalidates your choice.

In non-interactive media, this trope is usually covered by Morton's Fork.


  • Just Cause 2 is either type B or C. You choose which of the three factions will back you in the endgame, and consequently which faction will become the basis for a regime change when you kill the president. What this amounts to is which of the three identically armed, identically behaving rebel crews gives you backup in one mission, and whose theme music plays during the end credits. Nothing else about Panau changes, possibly because you finish the game by nuking the island.
  • The second Ace Attorney game has a type C. You make a decision in the last case to either plead Guilty or Not Guilty, but before you can actually speak the words, new evidence arrives Just in Time for you to take a mandatory third option.
  • The Whispered World has a type A at the end, when you can choose which mirror to smash. Only one of the two mirrors can actually be selected; picking the other one will just cause the Narrator to tell you off.
  • Batman: Arkham City offers another type A. When you're playing as Catwoman, you can choose to either save Batman or leave him, and leaving him leads to an immediate Non-Standard Game Over, and a rewind back to your decision point.
  • Resonance has a type C at the end of the second act. When Anna is considering whether or not to destroy the contents of the Dr. Morale's vault, Ed will shoot her no matter what she decides.
  • Jake Hunter consists entirely of type A's - whenever you have a choice, there is only one choice that actually advances the plot.
  • Hotel Dusk: Room 215 and its sequel Last Window have a lot of type A's - making the wrong decision almost anywhere results in a swift Non-Standard Game Over.
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