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Written by Kevin Gold and produced by Choice of Games, Choice of Robots is the interactive story of a twenty-four year old graduate in the Ph.D. program for Computer Science at Stanford in Palo Alto, California, who wakes up after a vivid dream about a robot they created on the day that they plan to create said robot. The year is 2019, and new technology abounds, from flying cars, to the almost-common use of 3D printers, and robots becoming more and more commonplace. The Player Character hopes to put together a robot with a fully functional AI in the hopes of earning their degree.

Choice of Robots is one of the most popular of the company's games, and is available here.

This game contains the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Juliet. Tammy also has her moments.
    • Your robot, too, if it's given a feminine design and has a high Military rating. Add in a high Grace rating, and it's also a Lady of War.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: It can be. A mind without a heart is a terrifying thing.
  • Arms Dealer: You can run a corporation that sells military, police, or security robots to the US government, China, Russia, or a shipping company.
  • Author Appeal: Kevin Gold has a Ph.D. in computer science, and many of his academic papers are on robotics and artificial intelligence, as well as how this relates to the human condition. Guess what the major themes and plot points of this story are? Swing dancing also makes a big appearance in certain later chapters.
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  • Auto Doc: One of the possible development paths you can take is in medicine, eventually leading to a world where all surgery is done by steady robotic hands. Interestingly, the game actually measures your robots' Empathy as much as their grace, reasoning that robotic doctors will still need a good bedside manner. If you make clumsy but personable robots, hospitals may choose to keep them on as nurses, even though they can't be trusted with surgery: apparently patients actually like talking to them; they seem more humane than human doctors.
  • Badass Normal: Juliet Rogers is a human soldier who's capable of going toe-to-toe with combat robots.
  • Bad Santa: Rudolph Ventures has a Christmas theme note , and their CEO dresses up as Santa Claus. He's a Corrupt Corporate Executive who's such a slimy asshole that just being exposed to him drains your Humanity.
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  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Specifically referenced if you chose to make companion bots that are human-looking but not "anatomically correct": below the waist, they are simply very large Ken and Barbie dolls.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: America and China both have very active internal espionage going on, from unmanned drones flying around houses to an algorithm used to catch spies through probabilistic analysis. By the way, the latter algorithm was designed by Professor Ziegler, which means that it's more useful as toilet paper than as a spy-catcher; nearly everyone caught is a false positive.
  • Brain Uploading: A potential possibility, depending on how to chose to develop. The story is keen to point out a Fatal Flaw in this plan, however: it's less of a transfer and more of a copy, as meat-you is still very much alive and a very unique individual. You can choose whether to have robot-you kill meat-you in order to "complete" the transfer, or to keep living as long as you can to help with the transition to a robotic body.
  • Branch-and-Bottleneck Plot Structure: There are three major points where the game takes exclusive branches.
    • The first branching point is the decision after college, whether to set up a robot company (or join Josh's U.S. Robots) or live as a bohemian NEET. If you go broke or resign from the company, you can end up on the bohemian path.
    • The second branching point occurs with the Sino-American War. If you don't Prevent the War, you get a chapter during wartime. If you do, which is only possible on the bohemian path, you get the Golden Age chapter, which is a short side route leading into Chapter 6.
    • After the War or the Peace, your choices decide which of the four routes you end up on for the climactic Chapter 6, based on the four robot attributes. Or, in the case of the Autonomy route, the robots make the choice for you.
  • Casting Couch: A non-entertainment-industry version. Screwing Juliet can get your robot project funded when it wouldn't otherwise.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Discussed in 6A by Mark: if there's a gun hanging on the mantle, it must be fired. "Those are the rules." He's actually contemplating suicide, as robots are replacing nonfiction writers like him.
  • China Takes Over the World: China is a rising superpower in this game, with a major penchant for stealing advanced robotic technology, and possibly conquering part of the United States.
  • Climate Change: In this case, we mostly see the positive effects. Alaska is now wine country and the Arctic Ocean is ice-free, leading to major economic opportunities.
  • The Cracker: Malicious cracking is a problem in this game, and cyberwarfare is a big part of the Sino-American War.
  • Creating Life: You can end up creating autonomous, empathetic beings who are practically indistinguishable from humans. In certain situations, your first robot can then go on to create a robot of his/her/its/rher own, as well. Or you can make obedient, mindless drones or killbots. It's up to you.
  • Creating Life Is Awesome: The story tends to take this angle as a whole, though of course there will be certain elements of the populace who vehemently disagree.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Your humanity meter takes a hit if you chose to replace parts of or your entire body with a robot piece. Considering this number tends to go up when you're nice to others and down when you're a jerk, functioning like a standard Karma Meter, it seems to imply it's impossible to be truly nice when you're not entirely human - even if you've got robotic Empathy through the roof, so that actual robots would never harm a fly and are polite as you please.
  • Death of a Child: Thankfully only in a dream sequence rather than in the flesh, where robots decide that "it is optimal to fight the humans when they are least able to defend themselves."
  • Developers' Foresight: Many of the choices you make (or don't make) are accounted for later on. If you try to romance Elly/Eiji and don't replace your smartphone you used for your robot, the game notes that your relationship gets strained (which causes their meter to take a hit) because you didn't replace the phone. Making your own company and not talking to Josh causes the PC to lament not having his experience in making a deal. The dream sequences in the beginning can even be subverted as well. For example, if you pick the 'God-like Robot' dream, but don't wind up on that route, the dream has 'God' appear like a ghost, and even laments that you didn't make them. In the 'Companion In Ireland' dream, if you choose to romance a human and/or turn down the companion robot, the dream turns the robot into your love interest, with appropriate dialog options to boot.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: This is a world where you can download a car, so your blueprints are probably going to get stolen and reproduced, usually by Chinese hackers. Dealing with this is a subplot. If you chose to educate your first robot by having it play multiple interactive fiction games, the story mentions that you pay for your other "Choice of..." games, because you're classy like that.
  • Dragons Up the Yin Yang: China is represented, in dream sequences, by a dragon.
  • Dying Alone: If you're killed by your brain condition and don't have a Love Interest, this is the result. How depressing this ends up being depends on the protagonist's prior successes and any remaining friendships they may have.
  • Egyptian Mythology: One of the dream patterns has a robotic Anubis, the jackal-headed judge of the dead, representing Autonomy.
  • Emergency Transformation: Towards the end of the game, you can discover you suffer from a genetic disorder that will kill you by essentially causing your brain to overrun itself. You can either chose to die as a human, to remove the offending part of your brain and leave yourself emotionally dead, to remove the part and then replace it with a robotic core that is more precise but less emotional than a human, or to discard your body entirely and upload yourself to a machine.
  • Emotions Versus Stoicism: This dichotomy, symbolized by the scales weighing the heart against the brain, comes up a lot if you dream about Anubis. At the climax, either you or he can call it a False Dichotomy, saying that the heart and the mind are the same thing.
  • Executive Meddling: In-Universe, if you have bosses, you sometimes have to do what they say.
    • In grad school, Professor Ziegler presses you to make a robot that he can turn into a DARPA grant. In fact, all three sources of funding have requirements.
    • You have to meet with Josh (which takes time out of your busy schedule) if you want U.S. Robots to fund your education, and you'll have to be able to provide him with a marketable product.
    • The National Science Foundation doesn't fund military projects, and they want a robot with groundbreaking capabilities in a single area.
    • DARPA theoretically wants a robot with military applications and not too much free will or friendliness, but brown-nosing the right people works too.
    • If you go to work for U.S. Robots, Josh will give you a relatively free hand in design, but he'll often make the calls when doing so means more money.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: On the Empathy route, if you romanced a human NPC from the earlier chapters, that's an opportunity for a threesome if you go stargazing with both of them. Sadly, the result always ends with you having to pick between your love interest or the companion robot. Picking the robot causes you to break up with the human, picking either option which tries to turn the robot down gently results in the robot becoming distant and running away. No option exists to ask about a polyamorous relationship.
  • Fallen States of America: If America loses either the Sino-American War or the Alaska Rebellion, America's days as a world power are over.
  • Fiction 500: It's possible to become the richest person in the world; in fact, it's possible to become rich enough to fund a war against the United States.
  • Foreshadowing: And lots of it. The heaviest of which occurs during the game's opening dream sequences, and the two dream interludes that occur later on, all of which are based around several of the game's possible conclusions. The Anubis dream foreshadows the most, alluding to three of the game's major outcomes.
  • Freudian Trio: Join Josh's company and get Elly/Eiji to join as well, and the three of you will end up forming this archetype. While the player is obviously The Kirk, Josh is The Spock, being more focused on making money and keeping the company running than investigating the more shady angles of robot-building, and Elly/Eiji is The McCoy, acting as The Conscience for the other two and leaving the company if the player chooses to help the military during the Sino-American War.
  • Guide Dang It!: A lot of the achievements tell you what action earns them, but it's very unclear how you're supposed to get to the decision/event that earns you said achievement. Even though the game has been out for a while, it's still difficult to find guides for some of the more obscure achievements, making this trope literal as well.
  • Humongous Mecha: If you design robots for the military, one possible design uses these. (Two, actually-another option is to use Transformers.)
  • Impossibly Graceful Giant: If you have enough Grace and design mecha, you get mecha that are as agile as humans, and the game lampshades the fact that what they're doing is almost impossible. In-Universe, it's seen as Rule of Cool incarnate, and they become symbols of your country's army.
  • Interface Spoiler: The game has nine slots for character relationships, marked ??? until you've met the person. However, depending on your choices, you may never meet specific characters, and the "spoiler" is the fact that there are more possible plot lines, rather than knowing that a new person is going to come up later.
  • Karma Meter: The Humanity stat determines how much of your humanity you've managed to retain while working on the robots.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Juliet's katana can cut through steel robots; the game mentions that katanas have been able to do that for a while.
  • The Last DJ:
    • In grad school, you can let yourself be kicked out instead of kowtowing to DARPA's demand for a military robot.
    • You can quit working for U.S. Robots if Josh's demands, such as making robots for the military, prove unacceptable.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: On the Military route, your Love Interest breaks up with you when you start the Alaskan Rebellion. This is true even if it's someone who is pro-war, hates the side you're fighting against and fully supports your actions, such as Juliet in the anti-China revolt or Silas/Tammy regardless of who you're fighting.
  • Machine Worship: You can set up a cult around your robots, or one can spontaneously form if your robots become advanced enough.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: Averted. There are nine romance options (eight human and one Ridiculously Human Robot), and there's an achievement for getting into a threesome. Even if your player character is extremely nerdy and a little awkward, the text never implies they're virginal, even in grad school.
  • No Blood for Phlebotinum: Two of the issues in the Sino-American War are the supply of rare earth minerals, which are vital to the manufacture of consumer electronics, and the robotic technology developed by your PC and, in most playthroughs, reverse-engineered by the Chinese.
  • No Fourth Wall: The dreams are occasionally quite aware you're reading interactive fiction. For example, if you suggest to the Statue of Liberty that you'll turn your arm into a gun, she eventually makes a remark about you needing to remember the passwords and to install the software in chapter 6C. Your Player Character realizes it sounds like she's telling you the walkthrough for a game, but hasn't got a clue as to what she actually means. Additionally, if you start off the game making consistently immoral choices, a friend will you call you on it, to which you can respond you're playing the evil route on this playthrough.
  • Oppressive States of America: Civil liberties are not a high priority in wartime. Chinese nationals in the US are subject to internment camps straight out of World War II.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: President Jacqueline Irons is an Iron Lady, mildly corrupt and utterly determined to maintain and strengthen American power, and rides to power on a wave of populist and somewhat Luddite sentiment.
  • Please Select New City Name: If you conquer Alaska, you can rename it whatever you want.
  • Poor Communication Kills: If the reason you're trying to conquer Alaska is to return it to the United States, you won't get the chance to inform anyone of that fact until after several highly annoying incidents have taken place.
  • Post-Cyberpunk: Technology is generally a good thing and will mostly help humanity, particularly on the Empathy and Grace paths. The Military path drifts more towards traditional Cyberpunk, particularly if you chose to try and take over the world: sure, that's awesome for you, but probably not so awesome for people who are not you.
  • Pronoun Trouble: One of your first questions when deciding how to think of your robot is what pronouns you will refer to your creation by. You have a choice of it, he, she, or rhe. If you choose anything other than "it", though, you may have to correct people occasionally. Interestingly, choosing either standard male or female pronoun set has no bearing on how others treat your robot; gender equality has apparently been achieved in this world.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: The game begins with a dream sequence related to robots, and multiple future dream sequences related to the original are possible. These dream sequences offer hints to future events, provide you with the impetus to take certain actions, and have No Fourth Wall. They're a result of you being affected by Algernon's Syndrome, a genetic syndrome that provides Super Intelligence and a propensity to seizures.
  • Realpolitik: Several game routes lead to your robot adopting a mindset where it will seek to become powerful at the expense of other motives (such as morality). It's very good for Autonomy and Military stats, not so good for Empathy.
  • Ridiculous Future Inflation: If the US loses to China, the dollar hyperinflates to about 1/100th value, wrecking the US economy.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: One path has robotics lead to the development of humanoid companions, and depending on Empathy and Autonomy, these robots can have as wide a spectrum of emotions, desires and thoughts as humans. You can even make them out of wood, which makes them pleasing to the eye (just don't send them into combat).
  • Robot Buddy: The deuteragonist of the game is your first robot creation, who accompanies you throughout the game (though it can be destroyed under certain circumstances).
  • Robosexual: Essentially the entire point of the Empathy route. It explores the idea (and the application thereof) of being in love with a robot, and a robot being in love with you. Of course, how good or how bad this plays out depends on your decisions.
    • The Officiant achievement is earned by presiding over the first robot-human marriage.
  • Robot War: One path can lead to this.
  • Run for the Border: If you become wanted by the government, you can try to flee to Canada or Mexico.
  • Sadistic Choice: Stall on agreeing to the deal with DARPA, and Professor Ziegler will eventually issue you an ultimatum: agree to the deal and make military robots for the government, or refuse, and lose your funding and place at the university. It's possible to Take a Third Option by securing outside funding (joining Josh's company is the easiest method for doing this), in which case the Sadistic Choice never comes up at all.
  • Scale of Scientific Sins: Your dream with Anubis specifically asks you which sin you must atone for: creating life with intelligence but no heart, creating a life capable of love but never offering any in return, or you can Take a Third Option and tell Anubis his scales are actually balanced, because your robots were neither intelligent nor loving: they were merely obedient automatons. This causes both of you no small amusement.
  • Sex Equals Love: An issue on the Empathy route is that you can't have a purely sexual relationship with the Companion bot. If it's just the two of you, and you have a purely sexual relationship with it, the game still gives you an emotional relationship anyway, just a dysfunctional and codependent one. If you already have a partner, then regardless of whether the robot has the necessary Autonomy to do this, it'll run away rather than be used as a sex toy. You can also come across this trope in the opposite way: if you build a Companion who's meant to be a companion, strictly platonic, they'll still eventually fall in love with you and wish to express that love sexually, even if you built them with Barbie Doll Anatomy because you didn't want people using your robots that way.
  • Shout-Out: A sci-fi game about robots is chock full of these, but a few are particularly noteworthy:
    • Mark's costume party lets you dress up as several noteable figures involved in robot literature
    • You can build Transformers for the military, complete with a reference to the G1 cartoon of the 80s.
    • When building your robot, choosing the sock-puppet option for a face and the wheels option for legs results in your character commenting that the ensuing creation rather closely resembles R2D2.
    • When creating a robotic double of yourself your character reminisces about transporter technology from Star Trek.
    • At one point, your robot can play Duck Hunt. If it's not good enough, it may miss a duck - and then try to shoot that damn dog.
    • Doubling as a No Fourth Wall moment, choosing to have your creation absorb information from interactive fiction has the PC download the entire collection of fiction games made by Choice of Games sans Choice of Robots, complete with a line about how the game hadn't been made yet or it would've come in real handy. There's also references to several other popular interactive fiction games, including Galatea and Alter Ego (The writer for whom now works at Choice of Games in real life!)
    • Flowers for Algernon gets referenced near the end of the game, supplying the name of a genetic disease which makes the person highly intelligent, but eventually disables them with hallucinations, seizures, and finally death soon after fifty.
    • You can give your robot Inspector Gadget arms, and if you also choose to name it Gadget, you'll say "Go go gadget Gadget!" when you go to power it up for the first time.
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: Can be defied in one dialogue option, where you mention that the idea of "intelligence levels" and IQ are in fact essentially based in 20th-century racial theories and have no meaning for your robot. That said, robots can range all over the spectrum.
  • Take Over the World: You can do this through a variety of means. In fact, the ad for the game emphasizes that you can fight against the United States and win.
  • Take That!: The Duck Hunt dog makes an appearance in one route, and your robot tries to shoot him.
  • The Singularity: One of the four dreams at the beginning of the game deals with a "soft" singularity. Professor Ziegler thinks that his work in robotics will bring about The Singularity. Finally, one of the endings deals with a "sort-of" singularity where robots take care of all of humanity's needs, and the differences between the dream Singularity at the beginning of the game and how things actually turn out at the end of the game is discussed. Also, with the right choices the Player Character can join the robots' Hive Mind, and the game hints that doing so accelerates the "sort-of" singularity toward becoming an actual singularity.
  • A Threesome Is Hot: It's possible to have a threesome with the Companion and your Love Interest in the Empathy route. The actual sex is as "Hot" as the narrative can describe without giving the game a 17+ rating, but the scene immediately afterwards kills any residual sexiness- see Failure Is the Only Option for more details.
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: On the Grace route, the robots' understanding of For Happiness leads them to make decisions that, while logically consistent, make humans very unhappy with them. For example, they refuse to enforce laws against shoplifting, because the shoplifter gains more utility from whatever they stole than the storeowner does.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: The robots you create can do this. It can even result in your robot killing you personally.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Choice of Robots starts in 2019, and already has flying cars, reliable 3D-printers capable of crafting from a variety of materials, as well as unmanned drones which operate at command of the police to peek into people's houses. The game progresses over the course of several years, ending in 2054. A lot of the technology that exists in that ending can be due to the PC's actions however. One path in Chapter 6 alludes to 3D-printers basically replacing snail-mail altogether and even being used for making food.
  • War Is Hell: While the narration stops short of condemning you for participating in war, it emphasizes that winning involves a lot of ugly, dehumanizing moral compromises, and Juliet also discusses how soldiers who want to defend their country have to fight to win stupid wars caused by politicians' ineptitude.
  • The Wiki Rule: An In-Universe example, as reaching level 5 fame grants you your own Wikipedia page, and one of the pastimes your Robot Buddy can become enamored with is maintaining their own wiki article.
  • Write What You Know: The author admits that his own experiences in grad school heavily informed his writing in the first few chapters.
  • World War III: The Sino-American War, fought across Asia and possibly North America. If America is winning, they'll nuke China into surrender.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: There are a few milestones in the game that can't be avoided no matter what:
    • Mark's article happens even if you try as hard as you can to avoid it
    • Your father's death. You learn about it even if you do everything to not speak to your Mom.
    • Tammy/Silas always crops up, either as an ally or enemy, though she/he can be dealt with when they appear.
    • The Sino-American War only seems unavoidable, you can actually prevent that one, which earns you an achievement

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