Even a decade ago, anyone who had played a strategy game or a deep RPG was familiar with the feeling of ramification, that acute for-every-action-a-possible-reaction state of mind. Only in this generation with games Mass Effect, Fallout 3 and Heavy Rain, however, has the idea of player choice so thoroughly infiltrated the mainstream – and often to the tone of moral ambiguity. So often now, experiences that were once full of mindless escapism have been replaced by existential crises – What devil have I become, murdering this innocent villager in his sleep and stealing his gold? – and the navigation around those crises turned into a focal point of gameplay.
Don’t get us wrong, though. We love the way more games have become preoccupied with the human condition; replaced Schwarzenegger with Cicero, engines of war with wheels of dialogue and decision. The depth and complexity and boundless storytelling potential such experiences offer are redefining the way games can impact our lives – and changing the perception of art as we know it.