9/23 This Action Will Have Consequences”: Interactivity and Player Agency – Leah Montgomery

In “This Action Will Have Consequences”: Interactivity and Player Agency, Stang “challenges the assumption that videogames are interactive experiences which allow users to exercise control and agency over their narratives.” This article is different from the ones we’ve read in the past, in that the author breaks down the video game play by play to fully execute his strategy to persuade the audience that in many video games, the interactive experience that users have is focused on how the user interprets the situations in front of him or her. 

Stang uses two different case studies in order to determine the different ways that game developers manipulate player agency and issues of morality. For anyone unfamiliar with agency, the term is referred to “as the general and fundamental capability of humans to act in the world, is a tricky and multifaceted concept restricted by countless factors, such as physicality, access to resources, societal expectations and political structures.” Through this we are taken through a game referred to as The Walking Dead, where you must make a decision that leads to a different scenario. However, the significant part is that of Clementine, a girl who is brought up in the game with the player, and is affected by every decision the player makes. The player then must consider how each decision affects Clementine, and will ultimately determine whether or not she ends up being a good or a bad person. This little addition to the game creates a moral dilemma for the players, who in the end focus most of their attention throughout the game on her. The authors had observed that many of the players adopted a protective, parental role when it came to Clementine, showing emotional openness and compassion when making the split second decisions that determine the game and who she became throughout the game. 

This article argues that the true player agency is not seen within the already scripted game and the narrative it has, but in the player’s interpretation of the game. Therefore, by creating these harsh decisions to make and shape the narrative, there is an extremely powerful illusion of player agency, in this game specifically. 


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