Epic NPC Man makes it clear that your choices don't matter

by: Randy -
More On: What we're playing

If you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Viva La Dirt League, let me be the first to introduce you. They're a funny group of friends living in New Zealand that, by their own admission, are "a bunch of nerds who play games and makes comedy sketches about games." They started their YouTube channel seven or eight years ago, though I've only caught onto them within the past year. They're hilarious. They crack wise on video game tropes, especially from MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, or from more recent online shooters like PUBG

They're a hardworking group, too. They put out videos on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and I've made them a regular part of my entertainment consumption. My 10-year-old finds them insanely funny, too. While most of their content is good to go for the young ones, you'll need to screen out some of their more mature material. 

This latest video, from my favorite series of theirs, Epic NPC Man, riffs on player choice in video games—in particular when player choice doesn't matter. No matter what you do, what you say, the end result is the same. The branching dialogue options and open-ended pool of actions you can choose from don't affect the narrative outcome. A lot of players come to role-playing games for (the illusion, at least) of choice, and having those choices matter. It feels like a small betrayal on the developers' part when you are in fact given choices that have no bearing on the endings you arrive at. 

So anyway, I'm off to Skyrim where often the only choices you're given are a) do the thing, or b) don't do the thing, which is a pretty big binary middle finger when it comes to player choice. Not doing something, within the framework of a video game, isn't much of a choice at all. It's just a bullet point in your quest log that will never be grayed out and shifted down to your completed missions. The more you don't do something, the more you'll have to live with it being an eyesore, forever and ever amen, in your in-game journal. Except, of course, if you're on a good-guy path and you back all the way out of conversations with Skyrim's daedric princes. Or if you're on a bad-guy path and you invent excuses to stockpile dead guards in Whiterun's main avenue. Either way, whichever route you choose, have fun with your choices. Video games are one of the only safe spaces where we can explore thoughts and ideas we're afraid to pursue—for one reason or another—in the real world. 

In the real world, continue to make good choices. Here, your choices really do matter, and unlike in this video, you can't quickload your way into trying again and again.