Saturday, 5 January 2013

Character Complexity Through Choice Funneling

Note: Genderless representation of child but I use 'she' for ease

I was playing mom is home, a twine game that portrays a young child who tries to tell the mother about a knee injury. Mom is home is a very good game, but I want to discuss something quite simple but incredibly important that it does.

It gives you a list things to say to your mother, the last one being the all-in truth ripper:

  • "i had more important stuff to do"
  • "i've been working on my essay for school"
  • "why don't you do it yourself"
  • "i dislocated my knee":

I love these options because they display the range of emotions the kid is feeling. Should she lash out? Maybe she should take it safe and just lie to her, surely she's done it before. Use the school method! Parents love school. No, no, that wouldn't work. This simple list of four choices represents a tense, anxious inner dialogue. Immediately, this character becomes nuanced, conflicted and complex. (Psst, that's how people are)

But then, no matter what choice you make, you get this:

that's what you consider saying

you wriggle your hands and go fold the laundry

Do you see what this does? It portrays a whirlwind of ideas and worries and decisions, and when she finally has the bravery to go for something, she decides to suck it and do the laundry. It funnels your mess of choices into shyness and non-action, and thereby portraying her shyness and non-action. It's choice funneling.

Like, "mom is home" is such a basic, solid building block towards proper character development in game form. It's a simple construct of presentation => negation. Show a list of ideas to get into how conflicted this character is. THEN, funnel choices into one result, to show how this character restrains herself, in spite of the mess of emotions that's going on around. It says so much about a person, about how they are, what they're feeling, and how they perceive their situation.

Look, we can make it more complicated. Here's a shitty diagram I made that visualizes choice funneling in mom is home:

Now, this might be a cool way to imagine twine games. We can also apply this crap to a bunch of other things. This is also a convenient way to think about the feelings involved during a decision making process, since, you know, we're always making decisions and all that.

Play with these thoughts as you will

1 comment:

  1. Don't you think you're over thinking this a little??