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Started by droqen, November 27, 2022, 08:42:40 PM

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I've played a handful of hours of Roadwarden.

After the first session: I am interested in this world, but I don't want to be making these choices.

After the second session: This game is making me make choices framed as transactional favours and it's affecting the way I think about people and my relationships to them in a way I don't like.


The types of choices that these games make me make, specifically games with characters and branching choices, are always frustrating to me because I don't like looking through the world through this lens: if I do this I will not get that. Of course I understand that the real world does in some respect function in this way, but Robert Frost's 'The Road Not Taken' would lose all meaning if you really could come back; choices, that is, in a videogame world, are nothing like the choices one makes in real life. It's hard for me to get past that.


Anyway, it occurred to me that it was those choices in Roadwarden, those "do A at the cost of B" choices, that were rubbing me the wrong way. Am I in denial about how these choices present in real life? I find myself at a bit of a real-world crossroad and the lens presented by this game (and games like it) might be helpful, except I hate the lens. I don't want to choose: I want to act artfully and move on to the next choice.


After the third session: I feel as though now that I've gotten to know the characters and places a little better I have a little tingle of respect for the way these characters act -- unlike in Disco Elysium, where people lie and withhold information and I only learn about it later (twists! the 'gardener', for an early example), the characters in Roadwarden rarely do. Actually, I can't think of a single instance where they have. Instead, in response to my requests, they tell me directly: "I don't want to."

On one hand I see this as supporting a plainly numbers-based decision-making scheme. "I don't want to" means "Your RESPECT STAT is not high enough to get me to do this action," and the game states this in relatively plain language (though you never see the number).

On the other hand I love the attitude, the sense of confidence, the honesty and straightforwardness. I have a degree of trust in the people of this world: that they are solid folk, that they will not do things for me for no reason, that they value what they value and will not let me waste much of my breath and effort on doing something for them that they don't care about.


After the fourth and final session: The itch app tells me that I've played Roadwarden for eight hours. I played straight through from beginning to end, and... well, I didn't get a great ending! It felt like I was making decent enough choices, accomplishing those interesting things I put my mind to, but the epilogue saw the peninsula fall apart rather spectacularly anyway. I wasn't dissatisfied with the ending. But in order to not feel dissatisfied I am really consciously pushing away the feeling that what I'm looking at is a bad end, an unambiguously negative end result with no meaning more important than telling me, "You could have done more."

That's not how life works and I don't plan to play Roadwarden again. I had a great time.