Have you ever wondered if your life could have been different had you taken a different route, or made an alternative decision? Perhaps you took the safe road rather than a risk and have always regretted it. Let me introduce you to a concept called Eternal Return. This theory deals with the fact that we never have the chance to go back to a particular moment and try a different path. This directly ties in with the idea of destiny, and those that believe in destiny will tell you that it is irrelevant which decision you make because ultimately you wind up at the same place.
In contrast to that are people who believe in free will and Butterfly Effect. This is when one minor alteration in a decision will set you on a complete different path. My own views are torn between these two concepts as I have often wondered where would I be if I had made a different decision , but because I don’t possess any way to exploit Eternal Return I will never find out.
Why am I asking this and what is the relevance to gaming? Well I have noticed that a few games over the last few years have multiple endings coupled with multiple story lines. This had me thinking whether developers purposely put these aspects in a game in order for us to experience Eternal Return on some level, or perhaps I am looking too deeply into it and they just want to offer as much as possible.
Heavy Rain is the best example I can think of as each decision made changes to the next section and ultimately the ending was slightly different. Some people played it through numerous times to see how things played out, giving them a fantastic ability to utilise Eternal Return, whereas other people were happy with the one playthrough knowing that was ‘their’ story.
My question is whether these aspects make you enjoy a game more? Do you prefer a game that has multiple story lines and endings, or would you prefer to play a game with a single storyline knowing that if you pick a specific direction you will end up in the same position no matter what?
An interesting concept in my ever growing desire to know why we play games, which are for me an absolute means of escapism coupled with other aspects. Of course everyone is different and I would love to hear your views.
(Please note that Eternal Return and Butterfly Effect are more complex theories than outlined here, but I would prefer not to hurt your head so early in the day)