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Choice in Games: Heavy Rain

I use that word 'choice' with a certain degree of scepticism when it comes to Heavy Rain - generally based off my own experience of the game; Heavy Rain was a game billed as something of a revolution in terms of videogame design by it's developers, blurring the line between videogame, feature film and novel; and seemingly contriving to create a market for 'mature' content in gaming, games in which the player could interact with a 'real' world environment, with 'real' choices and 'real' consequences to those choices. Real in this sense referring to the fact that you as the player wouldn't play a fantasy character of some sort � a mage or a superhero or a space marine, but rather an ordinary person, with their own personality, their own faults and accomplishments in life. The enjoyment from Heavy Rain wouldn't come from slaughtering hordes of rampaging aliens, or conquering entire worlds or even saving the day, but rather from the consequences of the choices you make � and how well you make them. As the developers described Heavy Rain themselves:

In Heavy Rain you don't watch the story � you play it. The dynamic narrative unfolds through the players actions - not cut scenes - and every action has a consequence. The choices you make and the way you interact with other characters have repercussions throughout the storyline. With unprecedented responsibility over the fates of the game's characters, Heavy Rain is an emotional experience unlike any other as a mature game for a new world of adult gamers.

In the case of Shelby, the problem isn't so much that you aren't given a choice but rather that the moral choice is more heavily signposted than the immoral choice � rather than standing off for a second so the player can make their decision then judging them afterwards the game constantly presents the particular angle which the developers intended the game to go in � it's clear from the scene with Kramer that the positive outcome would be to help him, and not helping him would mean some sort of failure. This itself jars with the fact Shelby only reaches this opportunity of decision after shooting numerous henchman, so in effect the narrative is telling you: sure it's ok to kill but only if the guys you can't look the guy in the eye one-on-one when you do it. As the player we're given a choice between helping and not helping, but the 'right' or 'moral' choice is much more obvious and implied as the correct thing to do.

I think here arises the problem with Heavy Rain: The game does give you choice but the 'right' choice is often much more heavily signposted than any of the other choices � and this becomes a problem since if a moral choice is going to feel worthwhile it must involve some sort of trade-off, traditionally in games 'being evil' � ie doing what would be considered in life the immoral thing to do in a situation is easier (and often more fun) but leads to negative consequences in game (characters reacting badly to you for example) whereas doing the right thing is often less fun, sometimes more challenging, but eventually more beneficial because you usually get the 'good' ending. The three games I mentioned earlier are examples that all use this sort of equation, despite the differences in style, narrative and game design, to great success. Yet pushing the player toward a single line of action when they're told to make 'choices' in Heavy Rain seems something of an oxymoron � afterall the concept of choice usually involves atleast two potential avenues of possibility of largely equal value, and when a game like Heavy Rain, which is focussed on the choices a player makes and giving them free reign, instead decides that there is a 'right' path and a 'wrong' path the choice in the game ends up seeming somewhat wanton.
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About Panzadolphin56one of us since 9:54 AM on 05.06.2011

Oh hey!

I'm former male model and celebrity nutritionist Panzadolphin56. This is my blog. I write things here.

...in case the blog bit didn't give that away.

Anyway! To the left you'll find my latest blogs, and beneath this you'll find a fairly comprehensive list of most of what I've written over the years (unfortunately some stuff does eventually get bumped off the list.)

I like to write from a fairly critical standpoint about games, usually analysis or talking about issues that interest me, I also do retrospectives from time to time, talk about games I've been playing, write the funny things that come into my head, and very occasionally do some crappy art.

I hope you enjoy what you read!

I also do Lets Plays (mostly old horror games) so if that's your thing then click here:


Everyone who clicks will not win a million dollars!


A little about me:

I am mostly a story person, good mechanics are good mechanics but button pressing never does anything for me. I like Horror, I like Cyberpunk, I like Neo-Noir (especially crossed with Cyberpunk), I like good art and good writing, I like games that cut against the grain or choose to challenge social or industry norms in some way.

I don't have a single favourite game but I am a big fan of the MGS games, Snatcher, the Forbidden Siren series, Silent Hill 2, the old-school Resident Evils, Advance Wars and Power Dolls, among many, many others.


Critical Pieces:

How ugly should Horror really be?
Of Inventories and Horror Games
Crafting A Good Game of 'The Thing'
Alien(s), Creative license and Borrowed Ideas
Crossing from TV/Movie to Games
Scope and Depth in the world of gaming
Boss Battles - When do they ever make sense?
Survival Horror Essentials
Colonial Marines: Well, that kind of sucked...
Disability, Disease in Games
Blood 2 and Post-Modernism
Topics, Tropes and Atmosphere in Horror games
Realism Vs. Fantasy - Who Wins?
The gradual drift away from the mainstream
Is There Horror in The Ugly...?
The Fourth Wall and taking games seriously
Are You Always Online?
Hype: Aliens Vs. Predator
To shoot stuff or not to shoot stuff?
Character Design and Choice in Games
Culture Vs. Creativity: Where do Stories come from?
Where you go Isometric-Strategy Games?
What's the Point of Games?
Do Horror games even still exist...?
Why are Characters Always so White...?
Choice in Games: Heavy Rain

A Magical Dolphin Plays:

The King of the Wood


Resident Evil Remake
Aliens Vs Predator 2
Sweet Home
Forbidden Siren
System Shock 2

Pick up and Plays:

Call of Cthulhu and the Spectre of Good Horror
Story Books and Nightmares in Rule of Rose
B-Movie Bliss: Extermination
Along for the ride with Michigan: Report From Hell
Some thoughts on Wargame: European Escalation
Skyrim: Impressions

Funny/Less Critical Stuff:

Get Yo Summer Game On
Lazyblog: Box Art
Escaping into the Darkness of Hellnight
Diversity what what?!?: Black Mamba Edition
Why Do We Still Have Exploding Barrels...?


Dead Space 3, in a nut shell.
CROSSOVER: Mario X Siren
Boss: Learning the Tools of the Trade

Front Pages:
Tales from Skyrim: The skinhead shopkeep
Steam ID:Panzadolphin56
Mii code:This is a thing?


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