4:00 pm EDT, August 16, 2018

Why ‘choose your own adventure’ games are so helpful for the human psyche

Choose your own adventure games help us all cope with the difficult decisions we’re faced with on a daily basis.

With the Telltale’s The Walking Dead: The Final Season underway, let’s take a collective look back on some of the choose your own adventure games that have built up the genre both before and during TWD‘s reign, and the benefits to our minds that each have presented.

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Choosing to be good or bad

infamous 2 box art choose your own adventure

Real life is full of seemingly small choices of whether or not to help someone, let alone hinder them. The Infamous series played with this idea in the form of a reputation meter that went up or down depending on how you treated the NPCs of the city.

What’s unique about this approach to choose your own adventure games is that feeling that you have total control over the consequences of your actions. If you want to be a villain, the game isn’t going to stop you from doing all of the wrong things.

Infamous beckons players to play through good, bad, and grey choices, ultimately leaving it up to the player to decide which route was the most rewarding. In life, we may often live in the grey, with the choice to go good or bad. Hopefully, through experimentation in the digital world, we can learn that our good choices are often more rewarding than our bad ones.

Stepping into the shoes of the protagonist

choose your own adventure game heavy rain

It can be very rewarding to feel like you have important impacts on the lives around you. One could say it even gives you a taste of what having a God complex feels like. With Heavy Rain, you’re working as four characters simultaneously trying to fight for what’s good and right.

However, one of the protagonists turns on the player, making for an interesting moral dilemma. Should you feel guilty for playing as the villain, even though you had no way of knowing it at the time?

The classic line from Spider-Man comes to mind here: “with great power, comes great responsibility.” The lesson learned here is that even with your best intentions at hand, there are going to be outside forces stopping you from achieving your goals. Also, while it may feel good to be the hero making all of the choices of whether or not to save human lives, it’s probably a good thing to get out this sort of decisionmaking in choose your own adventure games.

Even when mediocre, they stick with us

choose your own adventure games beyond two souls

The stories told through choose your own adventure games are sometimes the strongest. The Ellen Page and William Dafoe led game Beyond: Two Souls struggled with plot pacing and supernatural integration, but it delivered an extremely powerful motion-capture performance from both leads.

The thing about choose your own adventure games is that even when they’re not so good, you feel a sense of ownership and therefore a connection to the decisions you made for your character. It’s a lot more compelling to be able to feel this ownership over a so-so game rather than not having any power to change the path of any other mediocre title.

The lessons learned from games like Beyond: Two Souls are impactful and important. There are still days where I wonder what else Jodie can teach me in her struggles to maintain a life with a psychic soul buddy. For a game that’s not too great, that speaks volumes.

Learning from heartbreak

choose your own adventure games telltale's the walking dead season 1

Losing someone we love is one of the toughest experiences to go through in life. Thankfully, we can get a little bit of practice for this type of horrific event via proxy in games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead.

Having protagonist Lee die made me feel like I was losing a part of myself. I had invested a lot of thought into the character, and had fully expected him to lead the series from there on after. His final words to Clem will forever ring in both of our minds.

While having someone in your actual life pass away is a much more traumatic event, it sometimes helps to see and relate to characters going through something similar to yourself on-screen. Through Clem’s resilience and survival instincts, we can all collectively take notes on how best to proceed through life when it feels like the world is crashing down around us.

Telltale’s The Walking Dead: The Final Season completes in December. The first episode is out now for download for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

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