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YMMV / Choices: Stories You Play

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  • And You Thought It Would Fail: Several books were greeted with little enthusiasm upon their announcement, but ended up being quite popular, the most prominent examples being Bloodbound, Desire And Decorum, and Ride or Die: A Bad Boy Romance. Inverted with Across The Void, which the fans eagerly anticipated but ended up being disappointed by.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • After numerous complaints about the main characters in The Freshman and Rules of Engagement being boring, and forcing players to play as a female rather than allowing them to choose their character's gender, Endless Summer not only gave the fans the option to play as a male main character, the writing for Taylor was also much improved, both trends which have continued to this day.
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    • After complaints that all the playable characters are law-abiding, The Heist: Monaco and Ride or Die: A Bad Boy Romance allow players to play as criminals (the former of the idealistic type, the latter of the cynical type), which was welcomed by players. Word of God also confirmed there will be a story released in 2019 in which the protagonist is a fugitive.
  • Broken Base:
    • The option to play as both male and female main characters. Should it always be available for every book, or is it okay for some books to require you to play as a female? This also sparks a debate on which kinds of books are better: those with gender options or not. Some players prefer stories without gender options because they think the protagonists and their relationships with other characters, experiences based on gender, and intimate scenes with love interests are more developed, it allows the love interests to have canon sexual preferences rather than being "playersexual", and the stories with gender options neutralize the narrative. Other players prefer stories with gender options because they're more inclusive, there's the perception that these stories tend to have better plots, characters, and settings, and that many genderlocked stories have no real reason to be that way. There are also players who don't mind having gender-locked protagonists if it wasn't for the fact that these characters are always female, and there are no stories with mandatory male protagonists (aside from the ones which rotate viewpoints among multiple characters such as Most Wanted and The Crown & the Flame).
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    • While players in general accept that it's reasonable for some content to require diamonds to access, it's widely debated where exactly the line should be drawn. Those who choose to spend diamonds on the game want the diamond choices to count for something since they want to get their money's worth, while those who do not like spending diamonds feel it's unfair to get a lesser experience.
    • There are two main groups of readers: the romance genre fans, and the non-romance fans, who constantly debate one another over which should be the focus of the app. Romance fans complain that the mystery and action books focus too little on character relationships. Non-romance fans complain that the excessive focus on romance in some books comes across as Strangled by the Red String distractions from the actual plot and character development, and that the non-romance stories ironically have better romance than the romance stories. Not helping matters is that stories with stronger romance that's integrated into the plot are more likely to make more money and spawn sequels because many Choices ads put more emphasis on romance than other aspects. Romance fans take it as a sign that Pixelberry is being pragmatic on knowing its target audience. Non-romance fans take it as a sign of the declining quality of stories during the Summer of 2019.
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    • Groups have debates on which mechanic is better for the books: playing as a single main character, or switching the point of view between multiple characters (as in Rules of Engagement, #LoveHacks, The Crown & the Flame, Most Wanted, and Across The Void). A third camp doesn't mind playing from multiple viewpoints if the characters they play are interesting/entertaining and the multiple viewpoints add to the narrative, but decry the books that don't meet these criteria (most notably Rules Of Engagement for its Vanilla Protagonist Player Character and Across the Void where the two playable sibling characters are major Base Breaking Characters).
    • Choices removing “Book 1” from all books unless they have already released sequels (or are sequels themselves) has sparked a heated debate. Some see it as a valid way for the creators to keep their options open and avoid the risk of promising a second book that never happens (e.g.Most Wanted), while pointing out that just because a book doesn't have "Book 1" in the title doesn't mean there won't be a Book 2 (e.g. Perfect Match and Red Carpet Diaries). Others argue that it shows low confidence in the new stories and can potentially keep players from committing to a new series.
    • The redemption of certain villains or merely mean characters sometimes sparks debates on where the line should be drawn. Should it be used on many (but not all) of them as a means of giving Character Development and depth? Or is it overdone in some ways that certain evil or mean-spirited people just refuse to see the error of their ways? It doesn't help that some arcs are better written and received (e.g. Violet) than others (e.g. Aunt Mallory), and players are more forgiving of males (usually white ones) than females. This also extends to love interests who started out rude or antagonistic towards protagonists (e.g. Becca), with supporters seeing it as an example that love interests aren't supposed to be unambiguously good people since the beginning, and detractors refusing to date such characters for the same reason.
    • The issue of certain popular characters becoming love interests when seemingly not initially intended to be so is a point of contention. While many players applaud this because of the Ship Tease between these characters and the protagonists (e.g. Maxwell Beaumont, Kate O'Malley), others decry it as a form of Pandering to the Base that ruins said characters (e.g. Thomas Hunt) and encourages players to feel entitled to pressure Pixelberry to cater to their whims, even if doing so may ruin the story.
    • The customization of the player character has sparked some debate. There are some players who find it unrealistic that all the female player character models are skinny and all the male player character models are muscular with bare chests, and believe that there should be more body representation in Choices. Another group believes that there should be options for facial accessories such as glasses, earrings, or facial hair. The limited age range of player characters is also widely criticized, with almost all of them falling between high school age and young adult; a few are more ambiguous, but there are none who are clearly middle-aged or elderly.
    • Pixelberry's favoritism towards certain love interests has sparked some debate. There are several instances in which a love interest, usually a white male (e.g. Sawyer Oakley and Beckett Harrington), receives much more screen time than other love interests, with one of them, usually female (e.g. Asha Roanhorse and Aster D'Yew), often getting sidelined. There are some people, mostly those who like those love interests and think they're interesting characters, who justify it as proof that the app's target demographic will always be straight girls or women. On the other hand, there are others who have grown to despise those characters for being creator's pets who take up too much screen time at the cost of other love interests, especially if they aren't dating said forced love interests.
    • People are split as to whether or not Choices stories should be made into TV shows or movies for streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu. One group fully supports the idea and believes that it would be fun to see stories being told with a bigger budget and actors. Another group is against the idea and believes that outside forces could alter the stories and characters, which would ruin what Pixelberry has worked so hard on, in addition to the mandatory Cutting Off the Branches that would have to take place.
    • Pixelberry writer Andrew Shvarts posted a series of tweets on the company struggling with limited time and resources, his experience with various titles, and the tough decisions gaming companies make when investing their resources. In response, players are divided on whether they agree with him and felt that each segment of the fandom should realize they don't make up the entire fandom or disagreed with him and stated that he's missing the point of Pixelberry's problems, which they noted isn't limited time and resources, but wasting them on unnecessary things for the sake of making more money off of the silent majority at the expense of other kinds of players.
    • The controversial tweet posted by Pixelberry writer Luke Georgette, which he ended up deleting. In said tweet, he expresses discontent with people who automatically labeled Ride or Die: A Bad Boy Romance as terrible before it was even released. Some players have voiced their support for Luke, given that the fandom has a tendency to label a story as good or bad based on its title or premise alone. On the other hand, some players have voiced their anger towards Luke and have stated that what he did was very unprofessional and that it damages Pixelberry's reputation.
  • Creator's Pet: One of the primary criticisms Choices receives is the habit of favoring one Love Interest in each story, usually male, by giving them more than enough screen time, plot relevance, and characterization at the expense of other love interests. It becomes more outrageous when another love interest, usually female, becomes Out of Focus and any potential they have in the story wasted. This results in the favored love interests getting hated as they are forced on the player.
  • Dork Age: Many fans find the period of Summer 2019 to be this, especially late July and early August. Within just a few days, Nightbound and The Elementalists were canceled (despite being popular), Platinum was put on hiatus until August 22 and America's Most Eligible Book 3 was delayed until the Fall. This left the rest of the Summer with books that were mainly gender-locked, romance-heavy, and in the opinion of many players, boring. To be more specific, of the seven books note  which were actively releasing chapters as of the second week of August, all but Big Sky Country were gender-locked, and all but Bloodbound were romances (and even Bloodbound is a horror-romance hybrid).
    • Thankfully, things appear to be looking up as of the end of August and the beginning of September, with the announcement of two books that are gender of choice and not purely romance based (Distant Shores and Blades of Light and Shadow), a political thriller set in the Renaissance Era titled The Royal Masquerade, and a mystery story, as well as the reveal that Bloodbound and Open Heart, two stories that aren't purely romance, will have a third and second book later in the year, respectively (something that many fans were pleased by, due to Pixelberry's track record of prematurely ending book series over the previous few months).
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Look at any online discussion. You will find that fans are still clamoring for another installment of Most Wanted despite the book being on hiatus with no plan for a sequel. It's reached the point where the announcement of every new title is greeted with a number of people complaining that Pixelberry should be working on Most Wanted Book 2 instead.
    • It Lives In The Woods was obviously never meant to be a franchise (the first book didn't even bother to put "Book 1" in the title) but its sheer popularity with the fans made the developers promise that a Book 2 would be developed.
    • In terms of an actual character, Daniel the Waiter (a very minor character who has appeared in several books like The Royal Romance and Rules of Engagement) has amassed a fanbase of his own, as demonstrated by this post.
    • Many fans bemoan that Veil of Secrets and The Heist: Monaco won't have sequels. While both books were designed to be stand-alones (rather than being series which were ended early due to poor reception), and fully resolved their characters's storylines (leaving no room for the main story to continue), many fans feel like they could be developed into compelling anthology series.
    • Open Heart is considered by many to be one of the better written series of 2019 given that it focuses on more serious and mature subject matter such as grief, death, terminal illness, how competitiveness and jealousy can ruin friendships, and the fact that you can't save everyone.
  • Fan Myopia: There is a tendency across many social media platforms for people to assume that a particular book is popular or unpopular based on its reputation and general presence within that particular platform's Choices fan community, seemingly not realizing that any one community represents only a tiny fraction of all Choices players.
  • Franchise Original Sin: Various complaints about books released in 2018 and 2019 can be traced back to some of the earliest books.
    • One of the most common criticisms is that the third book in a romance series being heavily based around a wedding has become increasingly common. Red Carpet Diaries, America's Most Eligible and Desire And Decorum all have their third books based around a wedding and all three of them are releasing across Summer 2019. The tradition began with Rules Of Engagement; however, that book's plotline specifically involved the main character having to be married by the end of the summer to get her inheritance. Furthermore, the potential love interests were likable and the main character and her fiance planned their wedding together. While there were many Premium choices to have nicer decorations, clothes, etc. for the wedding, they weren't necessary, and players could choose free options that were not as fancy but still suitable for the wedding.
      • Red Carpet Diaries is a complete antithesis in this regard. For starters, there are already at least two other storylines in place (the first one being the main character making a movie based on her favourite book and the second one being her having a stalker), meaning the wedding plot could easily be done away with, or at the very least, held off until the end of the book. Also, the bulk of the wedding planning is done with the main character's "best friend", Chazz, instead of her fiance, and pretty much every wedding planning option is a Premium option. Instead of having a less fancy option for each aspect of the wedding, the player gets nothing at all if they don't pick the premium options.
      • America's Most Eligible, meanwhile, is confirmed to have a wedding plot as well. While the degree of control the player will have over the wedding remains to be seen, the concept of the titular show is to be crowned "Most Eligible", despite it previously being stated that there's nobody less eligible than someone who's already taken. Also, some players find all four love interests boring and dislike that there is no option to remain single.
    • The concept of having to pay diamonds to save people's lives is widely disliked, although this concept can be traced back as far as The Crown and the Flame. While having to pay diamonds to save lives was present in said book, there was also a system where certain diamond choices could be bypassed if the player had a high enough score, and the characters in question were likable and related to the plot. Fast forward to Across the Void, where roughly half the main cast will die unless the player pays diamonds to save them. This is excruciating for several reasons. First of all, many of the characters in question are considered either unlikable or irrelevant to the story (sometimes both), with one character having only two or three lines before the point where they need to be saved. Second, there is no way around the paywall; regardless of what choices the player has made prior, there is no way to save these characters without diamonds. Finally, some of these characters are love interests, and other characters guilt-trip you for letting them die.
  • Growing the Beard:
    • While The Freshman is considered to be Pixelberry having a stubble over their last products, Most Wanted and The Crown & the Flame are the books that proved to the audience the company can write a novel that isn't focused on romance and having solid ongoing plots.
    • While The Haunting of Braidwood Manor was relatively well-received, It Lives proved that the Choices team could do horror extremely well, and laid the groundwork for introducing stories with darker themes.
    • Veil of Secrets is well-received due to being a dark and gritty crime story. This seems to have opened up new possibilities to the crime genre for Choices such as The Heist: Monaco and Ride or Die: A Bad Boy Romance. Word of God has confirmed that there will be a story released in 2019 in which the protagonist is a fugitive and may release more murder mysteries in the same year.
  • Hypocritical Fandom:
    • Many fans want Choices to make different genres and dynamics in their novels, but get angry or reject a story if it doesn't have the "Three-Five Love Interest Formula" from most of the romance genre novels, or it puts little emphasis on romance. A proof of this is how popular The Royal Romance, The Freshman and their sequels are, and so are non-romance stories with significant emphasis on romance. Meanwhile, stories like Most Wanted (which is the only one without romance scenes between the two leads) and #LoveHacks (which still has the three Love Interests, but rotates the viewpoints between the six members of the gang) have mixed results because of their formats.
    • Many fans also support the idea of making female characters complex, yet disparage any of them (especially women of color) who show flaws, especially those who act remotely or merely "mean" to the point of refusing to view such characters with nuance and even reject their Character Development. At the same time, they view male characters (whether complex or not) as misunderstood or with less harshness, even when they've done equally bad or worse things and are motivated by less sympathetic reasons.
  • LGBT Fanbase: The Everyone Is Bi nature of most of the stories coupled with most stories' extremely casual attitude toward same-sex relationships have made the app extremely popular within the LGBT community.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "Everyone goes to Hartfeld." Explanation 
    • Some of the more So Bad, It's Good ads for the apps have became infamous in the fandom.
    • Forced White Male LIExplanation 
    • Pay to GayExplanation 
    • Pay diamonds to be a good friend or for quality stuffExplanation 
  • Misaimed Marketing: The ads for the app make it looks like it only focuses on Romance games. Not only is the actual app a Genre Roulette, some books (Perfect Match, Bloodbound, Endless Summer) initially appear and are advertised like a romance book before having a significant Genre Shift after the first chapter.
  • More Popular Spinoff: The Royal Romance is almost universally agreed to be this to Rules of Engagement due to a stronger plot, more likable and interesting Love Interests, and avoiding most of the flaws that Rules of Engagement suffered from.
  • Narm: It often occurs whenever Choices recycles backgrounds and character portraits. For example: having a scene in the jungle with the glowing flowers from Endless Summer, or having the same waiter for all their restaurants across the world, which became a Memetic Mutation for Daniel the Waiter. The most notable example is Wishful Thinking, where almost every character who isn't a love interest has a recycled character portrait.
  • Periphery Demographic: While the option of choosing a male Player Character is meant to appeal to male players, a lot of female players enjoy playing as a male player character because they are Yaoi Fangirls or think that the male character options are attractive.
  • Play the Game, Skip the Story: Many players have a habit of doing this to stories they don't like because they're awarded two diamonds (the in-game currency) after completing a chapter for the first time. Even more so after players can watch ads, which reward players with one diamond per ad watched, upon completing any chapter except the first chapter of the book, with a maximum of six ads per day.
  • Romantic Plot Tumor: A unique case. Many in the fandom feel that the non-romance books are miles ahead in terms of plot, writing and character development (most tellingly, of the six worst-received books, five of them are romance stories: Home for the Holidays, Rules of Engagement, Red Carpet Diaries, Passport to Romance, and Sunkissed; the only non-romance book in this group is Across The Void). This is despite the fact that ads for the app tend to heavily promote the romance stories. Players also hate that some stories force players to have a love interest as part of the plot (often because there is a wedding involved), denying them the option to stay single in case none of the love interests appeal to them.
  • The Scrappy: While most of the series have sizable fandoms, there are those that are largely disliked by the majority of players.
    • Home for the Holidays is widely disliked for having a boring and derivative plot and boring characters, as well as having a female-only protagonist when many feel the story would work just fine with a male lead. It revolves around a woman named Scarlett Joy trying to get her boss, Nick Peralta, to publish the book of her friend, Holly Wright. Many state that Holly's book is terrible and hated that they were forced to see it get published, and find the protagonist annoying and unlikable for ignoring her actual job duties in favor of trying to force the book on her boss. Moreover, Nick has been criticized for being a poorly-written character who lacks complexity and a believable reason to have a change of heart, in addition to being a jerkass who acts less like a stern boss and more like an entitled Manchild who dumps workload on his employee while staying at her house during the holiday season and disparaging Winter Haven throughout most of his stay.
    • Red Carpet Diaries is widely hated for its derivative storyline of a newbie rising to the top with minimal effort, the lack of care for Victoria Fontaine's characterization and storyline in favor of unnecessary scenes with Matt Rodriguez in Book 1, disregard for a #MeToo-inspired storyline in favor of making Thomas Hunt a love interest in Book 2, and the unsuccessful attempt to merge three different storylines (producing a movie based on the protagonist's favorite book, facing a stalker, and preparing for the wedding) into one book in Book 3.
    • The Sophomore (especially Book 1) is hated for forsaking an ongoing story in favor of a lot of individual plot threads that don't really go anywhere, and for reducing the protagonist's role to mainly providing emotional support for her friends.
    • Across The Void is generally hated for focusing more on aesthetics than on the actual story, slow pacing, not exploring the Vanguard-Jura conflict in detail, keeping the characters underdeveloped, and putting more focus on Eos and Pax, whom many players hate for their annoying behaviors. In fact, the book was so hated that it was made a standalone instead of a series and went on hiatus for several months so it could be retooled, but even after it returned, player enthusiasm was still relatively low despite slight improvements along the way. The main criticism of the post-hiatus chapters is that players are forced to spend diamonds to save the lives of many characters, which players find exploitative. The ending is heavily criticized for being anticlimactic because there are no consequences from the Multiple Endings provided, and there's no Where Are They Now scene for the characters.
    • Passport to Romance is disliked by a majority of people for having boring characters, an unfocused narrative devoid of any real conflict, and antagonists who are either one-dimensional stereotypes (Bronwyn and Carlisle) or Unintentionally Sympathetic (William Langdon and Ahmed's coach). The main cast is often compared to controversial Youtubers like Jake Paul and Logan Paul due to their reckless behavior such as trespassing, and their multiple incidents of exacting petty revenge on anyone who gets on their bad side. Many have expressed their joy that it isn't getting a second book.
    • Sunkissed is despised by a majority due to the inability to pick the protagonist's gender, unsuccessful attempt to merge two completely different stories into one book (the Kerseys mourning for Aria's father's death and Aria enjoying summer in a small beach town), lack of focus on the summer romance despite it being the premise, Unintentionally Unsympathetic characters such as Alexis and Gayle (Alexis comes off as a Bratty Teenage Daughter and Gayle is emotionally distant from her daughters), and boring love interests.
  • Scrappy Mechanic:
    • Most of the books except for Perfect Match have a really bad AI that doesn't recognize a previously purchased outfit you decided to wear for the scenario. To clarify, if you reject the premium outfit being offered to you for the current situation, the characters will react as if you are wearing the basic option, even if you are wearing a premium outfit purchased earlier.
    • Players despise the fact that you cannot replay a chapter that you've already played without restarting the entire current book. The one exception is a chapter that you have just finished; however, this requires spending an additional key, and if you don't replay it immediately, you lose the chance.
    • The “collection rooms” in many of the stories receive a lot of hate. Many feel that the game guilt tripping them into filling the entire item space is very distracting from the main plot. Some big examples are The Junior and The Senior’s clue/inspiration cork boards and the empty apartment, while Desire & Decorum has the “accomplished lady skill room”, which only fulfill the purpose of making the gameplay easier. Somewhat better received are stories like Veil of Secrets, Endless Summer, Bloodbound, and It Lives, where the items collected unlock bonus scenes that serve to fill the blanks, with additional bonus scenes made available if the player collects every single item.
    • While diamond requirements for certain options generally fall in the "debated" category rather than "widely disliked", players almost universally agree that having to spend diamonds to save someone's life is a very bad thing because it shames players who can't afford to buy diamonds and discourages critical thinking. (Examples include Prince Tevan in The Crown and the Flame, Nikolai in Veil of Secrets, and numerous characters in Across the Void).
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: One of the complaints of the stories with gender options is that they neutralize the protagonist's experiences that they don't provide any unique perspectives depending on the protagonist's gender, which makes their backgrounds and relationships with their love interests lacking in depth. The only aversion is, ironically enough, Veil of Secrets, a story with gender options for the protagonist and a slight difference in writing for both genders.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: One of the most common complaints across the series as a whole is the fact that the Love Interest the player chooses never reacts with jealousy, possessiveness or even extra dialogue when you flirt with another character or love interest. Some books even allow you to date multiple characters at once, and none of your partners ever seem bothered by this. There are also no long-term consequences if you break up with them for someone else, as all of them have the attitude of I Want My Beloved to Be Happy.
  • Unfortunate Implications: According to this post, the alarming number of non-white characters, specifically black women, depicted unsympathetically and/or ignored with impunity without proper care for their characterizations and storylines, coupled with the fandom's tendency to disparage them, has raised concerns about Pixelberry's mishandling of them and the fandom's collective racism against people of color.

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