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Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Games Can Influence Our Social Interactions

Updated on April 14, 2015

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels were a popular gimmick in the 1990s to get kids to read. These days, CYOA video games are all the rage. The advantage the games have over the books is that the linear storytelling stays intact rather than constantly flipping to different parts of the book. The format for the dialog and action choices may also be helpful in influencing our everyday social interactions by having us think about the options first and then select what we think is the best course of action. Learning from past experiences either in-game or real world may also prevent repeated mistakes in some situations.

Telltale is a company that produces games for Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Wolf Among Us, and Borderlands, just to name a few. All of these games require the player to periodically make decisions for the character or characters they're playing as. Most are dialog choices which may or may not amount to much, but there are also game-changing decisions that need to be made; both lead to consequences and different outcomes. Having these different outcomes teaches people about opportunity cost (although that's what multiple save files are for, especially when there are mutually exclusive achievements at stake). Playing alongside friends or consulting a wiki will reveal these different paths for a more informed set of decisions. Often, either the main character or supporting characters will bemoan the road not taken, but how you decide to play is completely up to you.


The appearance of dialog choices are often timed, just like the action responses; these are either generously long or mercilessly short. This teaches people to think quickly and choose the most efficient response through practice. Sometimes a game will do a cruel thing: at certain times nothing you choose will matter because your character gets interrupted by sudden events before he or she can say or do what you chose for them. This is jarring and can make a player feel helpless depending on the situation. Other times, you have to tailor your responses to the person to whom you're speaking, such as in Shin Megami Tensei games (especially the social links in the Persona series). While you can still play your character however you want, some NPCs will respond differently to different choices (though occasionally you will luck out and find a character to whom you can say anything, such as Hisano from Persona 4).

Another feature of these games is the dialog tree, which is prevalent in games like Fallout and Life is Strange. In the latter, however, since the protagonist can rewind time, she can cover for her mistakes by making different choices until she gets it right (usually). More than just providing a choice of action, these trees create whole conversations which may cycle back to the original list of topics; in this way it becomes a checklist of all the conversations you could possibly have or need to have with a certain person. These can often be completed in whatever order you wish, but there is a certain flow to the conversation that would have some choices make more sense in a certain order. If you play enough of these games, the style of these conversations can get stuck in your head and start to influence how you think about things, especially your real life social interactions.


To conclude, the choose-your-own-adventure format in video games can teach you about life if you think about it enough. More so than their literary counterparts, they present scenarios that amount to more than just a simple fork in the road of the story. Given the various NPC reactions and consequences, people who play these games may start to think more about what they say and do in their everyday lives as well. This is not to say that the content of the games themselves turns people into better or worse human beings, but the operating mechanic of choice can get inside their heads. How they choose to act in a game and how they act in real life may differ, but they still make choices nonetheless.

What's Your Favorite Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Game?

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