Latest News

In Defense of a Choice-Driven Ending


The beginning and ending of a story are often considered the most important parts. The beginning needs to be gripping and captivating, while the end must wrap up the tale and leave the audience satisfied. Despite their importance, storytellers often have difficulty properly executing an introduction and even more difficulty wrapping up a story. Video games are no exception to this. In fact, due to the nature of choice in games, writers often have more trouble satisfying an audience. Many complain that the choices they make don't matter in the end or that the final choices aren't properly explained/fleshed out. Two games that seem to take more than there fair share of criticism in this regard are Mass Effect 3 and the recently released Life is Strange.

I'm going to make a bold claim and say that both of these games end excellently, but also that more choice based games should end in a similar risky manner, a final life/story altering action. I'm going to make another bold claim and say that not every choice based game needs to address all, or even most, of your choices in the end.

*Spoilers for Life is Strange and Mass Effect 3*

The premise for all of these choice based games is that you can make the game your own and steer the story in your direction, but the reality is that the storyteller has a specific story it wants to convey and you just steering the car to get to the inevitable final location. You aren't creating the story, merely changing its direction. And that's okay. The concept of changing the world and characters around you throughout the journey should be incredible enough alone. Life is Strange is a great example of this, since the game ends in one of two ways no matter what. Your choices don't matter when it comes down to that final choice between Chloe or Arcadia Bay. But your choices you've made will affect how you react to that choice and what you ultimately choose. Just because the game doesn't factor in every choice, does that mean they don't count?

Many people complain that the end of Life is Strange is too drastic. Either erase every choice you've made and save the town, or kill everyone and save Chloe. This choice blew my mind when it first appeared. The obvious answer was save Arcadia Bay, we couldn't let the life of one person equal the life of a whole town, but I began to think of it as if it were my girlfriend or best friend. Could I really sentence them to die if I had the ability to save them? I had grown more attached to Chloe than I even realized and was really struggling to let her go. It's these kinds of choices that make video games such an interesting storytelling medium. The way you played the game up until that point will almost definitely effect how you choose. Your choices matter in that regard. How Max feels about Chloe and the other townspeople is controlled almost directly by you. Can you really say that your choices didn't have any effect on the same world?

me3-onelastpicture (1)

Take a look at the final choices of Mass Effect 3. You can choose to control the reapers, destroy them and all other AI, or synthesize with them. Those are three radically different choices that aren't made easily, but due to past choices, you may be more easily inclined to a certain choice. If you fought to save the Geth instead of the Quarians, you may rule out the Destroy option. If you repeatedly denied the Illusive Man, you may feel that control is off the table. If you never felt satisfied with the choices you were presented in handling the Reapers, you may be compelled to Synthesize with them. While not every single choice in the game is factored into those final five minutes, they all shape the way you perceive the world. It made that final choice that much more personal. Many will complain that the cutscenes weren't different enough, there were a few plotholes, and that they didn't get an epic battle, but in the end those three choices drastically changed the world you lived in for the last 200 hours.

Not to mention that the entirety of Mass Effect 3 is the culmination of your choices in the past two games. Almost every arc and thread is addressed in some manner, whether it be small cameos, lengthier quest lines, DLC, or dramatic moments. Not all threads are given the same importance, just as you would expect. Some choices have a much smaller effect on the overall plot, while others, like surviving characters, can have a large impact. The ending of Mass Effect 3 can feel very different for every player based on what choices were made.

Who cares that the final 10 minutes of these games don't directly reference every single choice you've made? The experience is in the journey, not the destination. Every choice you've made has affected a moment in time or a character or the world around him. Will every choice you've ever made be relevant in the final year of your life? Nope. They will however have changed the world and the people around you, much like video games have done. Realistically, no developer can make every choice matter in those final minutes, but they can make sure that the world feels different than when you first walked in. And isn't that what we all want anyway, to change the world?

You must be logged in to post a comment.

APG Clan Wars & Tournaments

Event Calendar

August 2018
« Mar    

Listen to Our Latest Podcast!

Subscribe to Our Podcast

APG Live Twitter Feed

Visit Our Sponsers

Free Community Teamspeak