I touched on this in the “Do you role play in RPGs?” thread. While I’m most often prone to this sort of thing in an RPG where I’m consciously roleplaying with a sort of personal headcanon for my character, it’s started to seep into how I play other games too.
Like Rob’s article, I can relate through my XCOM experiences, getting attached to my squad (especially if I’ve named and personalized them!) and jeopardizing the overall mission to attempt to save everyone. In open-world RPGs, or any game that offers a degree of player choice, I try to veer toward character consistency, even if that means making a choice to preserve the integrity of how I’ve decided I want to play a character at the sacrifice of a mechanical, in-game benefit.
This can be most jarring when a game simply forces you to play a certain way. I think more than anything, I don’t like being shoehorned into a particular style of game play where there’s only one way of solving a problem. That’s a simple enough issue when we’re just talking about game mechanics, but when it gets into the deeper ethical questions of character behaviour and choice, I find that forcing me into only one course of action can leave a bad taste in my mouth. I was determined to stick to a pacifist style of gameplay in Fallout 4 for as long as possible, but there’s simply no way to do this in the main story — almost immediately, you’re forced to kill. (I guess there’s as much to be said about painting a realistic picture of an unforgiving wasteland, but why not give your players some agency in your supposed sandbox?)
It’s important to note that there’s a key difference between forcing me to make a difficult decision for narrative benefit, and forcing only one choice on me because that’s just how that game works. If a game’s story says “You have to take this action, even if goes against your value system, because it’s the only way to save everyone,” then that can create fantastic character development. If it’s “You can only take this action because reasons,” that’s lazy game design to me.