False Choice

A false choice is a choice for which all possibilities lead to the same outcome, even if some choices would seem to explicitly preclude such an outcome. This is common in console RPGs, where the characters might have a conversation along the lines of:

  • "Are you going to save the Princess?" Yes/No
  • "No"
  • "What do you mean, 'No'? If you don't, the world will end. Are you going to save the Princess?" Yes/No
  • "No"
  • "What do you mean, 'No'? If you don't, the world will end. Are you going to save the Princess?" Yes/No
  • "Yes"
  • "Bless you! I *knew* you'd make the right decision."

The question keeps coming up until the player answers yes. Typically, false choices give the illusion of freedom of player expression as long as you don't pick the "wrong" choice and see the man behind the curtain. In the above example, the player who picks "Yes" first might feel braver for having taken the hard option.

Sometimes these are structured so that a player might not realize what is going on if he or she only picks the wrong answer once. In the above example, a player who picks "No" and then "Yes" may feel like he or she has been given a chance to have a change of heart, and taken it. The player who picks "No" twice in a row (or more) realizes that the issue is completely forced.

The most egregious example I've played recently is Golden Sun, a great game in many ways, but unfortunately full of false choices.

The idea that there is little (or no) support for choices chosen by a minority of players is fairly common in games. For game systems that are not or can not be simulated, each additional option is additional work for developers. If 95% of the populace is going to see only the main path, it makes sense to put most of the development effort into improving that path. By offering a false choice, developers can at least make it seem like there are additional paths. False choices are only apparent when players try to do something the developers didn't intend. Also, even those people who realize the choice isn't real wouldn't have as much fun playing a game where the hero decided not to save the princess but just got drunk at a local pub.

And, on a meta-level, some console RPGs have deliberately defeated the expectation of false choice. Dragoon pointed out that at the end of Dragon Warrior you are offered a choice to join the last boss. Players used to the concept of false choices expect that only the "no" answer works. If you do decide to pick "yes", the game ends. If you pick "no", you fight the boss as expected.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.