33/365 – Meditation Games #33 – Choose Your Own Groundhog
Developer: Tyson Moll
Launcher Quote: “Looks like it’s Groundhog Day again!
Will the ‘hog see its shadow and forecast 6 weeks of winter,
or will the sun shine and bring us an early spring?”
Today’s game by Tyson Moll dropped a feeling about a game that I’ve haven’t been exposed to in some time, which was the idea that I had an illusion of choice in the outcome of a game. While there are certainly complaints about today’s somewhat railroad-y linearity in the games that offer you choices, none of that compares to the sort of Choose Your Own Adventure routes that some of the older school adventure games took. Perhaps one of the worst examples of this didn’t really come in the form of making straight up choices but in wandering around a boxed-in, limited world where all choices led to frustration – that being the infamous E.T. – The Extraterrestrial for the old Atari. It seemed like you could pick something and get something distinct, but all roads led to the same sort of outcome. It didn’t help that the music in today’s game kind of reminded me of that sort of era too.
That being said, I sort of got the idea that the developer knows this in a way. No matter what outcome you pick for the groundhog, the outcome is the same, albeit with a slightly different visual of seeing a shadow versus not seeing one. You still see the same sad faces, you still see the same scenes, and while there may be a small variance in the music, it’s typically the same ending. In one way, you could say that there might be a point to offering choice in a game if it’s going to come out like this, but I choose to offer a different interpretation – that we shouldn’t care about picking what to do based on something so binary.
The tradition of Groundhog Day has long since supported this binary level of choice without any play either way for something in the middle – it’s either there’s more winter to come or not – but in truth the reality has a bit more variety to it, especially depending on where you are in the world. It’s this kind of nuance that I think sometimes gets lost in some of today’s games (it’s just less obvious than it was back then), but nevertheless is something we should remember, if not in games than certainly in the real world.