the structural formula of this very specific type of game often demands a rigid “this” or “that” choices to drive players, limiting the imagination of the possible in pursuit of raw simplicity.
But that raw simplicity is part of the appeal, I think. People enjoy being boxed in between arbitrary choices that feel gross, given how often video games concoct some way to make sure the player is the kind of hero able to thread the needle and make everything a-okay.
Patrick is probably right here about how this makes most players feel, but personally, it infuriates me. He posits this as different from the hero fantasy games of this sort often propose, but it is fundamentally the same in one sense: you, the outsider coming into town, is the person responsible for this choice. The game makes you take the destiny of these various places into your own hands. Parvati has been in Edgewater her whole life, sure, but so have Adelaide and Reed. You’re not making a decision based on what the people with lived experience believe to be right, because those people have different positions. You’re listening to them and choosing to side with one of them and making them win out over the other locals, because you have that power. You’re as important to this world as any Final Fantasy protagonist.
The difference, of course, is that the fantasy the game is selling you is not the one of being the hero who can save the world: it’s the fantasy of being The Great Compromiser, the big sensible centrist who can get all reasonable people together and not create something that doesn’t suck, never that, but create something that merely sucks less. It replaces the naive escapist feeling of being someone with the power to change it all with the naive conservative fantasy of being extremely powerful and finding that barely anything actually needs to change at all. The podcast from yesterday featured the crew trying to figure out which Dem candidate this ideology best fits, but to me The Outer Worlds sounds like it wants you to play as Nancy Pelosi. And fuck that. I’m excited to try Disco Elysium.