Making the "Right" Choice in Paperboy and Beyond

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Making the "Right" Choice in Paperboy and Beyond

Freedom of choice in games has been around for awhile, but one of the pioneers was a game set in suburbia and followed a little boy on a bicycle.

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Interesting article, for sure. And it strikes me as odd that a game like Paperboy manages to portray moral choices better than, let's say BioShock or Infamous.

Solid first article. Looking forward to reading more from you Lizzy.

And suddenly Paperboy takes on a whole new level of moral complexity.

Sometimes choices are better when not affecting the game that much.
In the first Mass Effect game you needed either a high Paragon or Renagade Score to pass certain tests like keeping Wrex.
The result was that playing anything but entirly paragon or entirly renegade was gimping your character.
The endresult was that Mass Effect only had a single choice instead of many.
Will you be Paragon or Renagade?
And that choice is made at the beginning.

The Witcher games do it much better in my opinion.

Grats on the first article, Lizzy! Incidentally, I wonder what it says about me if I just made it a point to try and nail everyone and everything with a newspaper just because I could and doing so made me laugh gleefully?

Some paperboys just want to watch the world burn?

great article Liz. Keep them coming!!

Great article, and great choice of game for a first article in a column about retro games.

I enjoyed reading this. I had a nice nostalgia hit. Bought back a lot of memories.

GiantRedButton:
Sometimes choices are better when not affecting the game that much.
In the first Mass Effect game you needed either a high Paragon or Renagade Score to pass certain tests like keeping Wrex.
The result was that playing anything but entirly paragon or entirely renegade was gimping your character.
The endresult was that Mass Effect only had a single choice instead of many.
Will you be Paragon or Renagade?
And that choice is made at the beginning.

The Witcher games do it much better in my opinion.

This has always been the thing I disliked most about Bioware games, black-or-white choices. Like the whole Rachni thing. Genocide them, or possibly cause someone else's genocide in the future by the queen's children?
There's no option to hand her over to a crazed etymologist for study whom winds up eliminating their innate territorialness, and if you choose to destroy the queen, the game browbeats the hell out of you for choosing to do so.
Nearly a quarter of the choices in the game tell you you are definitively WRONG for having chosen that way. That's not a choice if you present it that way!!! And you're heavily penalised if the browbeating succeeds, in some cases, because you fall too far off 'paragon' or 'renegade.' If you're gonna imply there's only one 'choice' then DON'T PENALISE THE PLAYER FOR MAKING THAT CHOICE

Demetirus:
Grats on the first article, Lizzy! Incidentally, I wonder what it says about me if I just made it a point to try and nail everyone and everything with a newspaper just because I could and doing so made me laugh gleefully?

Some paperboys just want to watch the world burn?

I liked to use the game genie to get unlimited papers and just set my Zipper to autofire! Machinegun!
http://www.8bitnes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/-31563008523876351.jpg

Welcome to The Escapist, Ms. Finnegan!

I do remember playing this on the Commodore 64 back in the day, but can't say it ever occurred to me to consider it a pioneer in, er, "ludic expressiveness", as it were. I just tossed papers through windows because you could, and why wouldn't you? (Of course I never encountered many of the scenarios described in the article, probably due to sucking at the game.) So definitely an interesting point about this classic.

I think that I still have this game on my C-64 somewhere in the house. Good way to start with The Escapist!

Playing Paperboy was like working for a mafia owned paper.

"So you don't subscribe to us, eh? It would be a shame if you got a copy... through that nice window you got there"

Pinkilicious:

Demetirus:
Grats on the first article, Lizzy! Incidentally, I wonder what it says about me if I just made it a point to try and nail everyone and everything with a newspaper just because I could and doing so made me laugh gleefully?

Some paperboys just want to watch the world burn?

I liked to use the game genie to get unlimited papers and just set my Zipper to autofire! Machinegun!
http://www.8bitnes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/-31563008523876351.jpg

I like your style! This was my weapon of choice: http://www.capngames.com/images/videogames/nesmaxcontroller.jpg

Great article Lizzy look forward to you contributions

I remember the Paperboy coin-op well. I'm sure there are some different configurations around, but the one I'm familiar with is notable for having bicycle handlebars with breaks as a controller; and at the time, it's relatively high resolution graphics: 512x384. It's a very difficult game.

Well, um, isn't this an unexpected article?

Anyway welcome to the site Lizzy, I hope you stay. However if you do, its custom to find yourself an avatar pronto. Something that says "I am a person" without being a real face, or some PoS that makes the page lag (Looking at you TopazFusion and other gif users.)

I hadn't thought of Paperboy as an early example of morality options in video games, but have only played it a few times. Great article, Lizzy F.

I remember playing Paperboy 2 as a kid specifically to see what funny/naughty things I could get away with on the delivery route. It took a long while before I realized I should learn how to beat the first level in order to see what funny things I could do in the second. Eventually I got good at the game. For the laughs.

Congratulations on your first article here, I loved it. It was food for thought. Never thought of Paperboy in that light before, I suppose it really was an early morality system of sorts. A clean effective one at that, without the "moral alignment" bars/graphs of later games that I came to loathe. A very personal system too, you did the action and saw the immediate consequence while riding away from the "scene of the crime" so to speak and only had to attend to your own conscience or lack of it in regards to the pixely human lives you so recklessly altered in your mad dash to deliver yesterday's news.

The Mass Effect take on it, in which you chose if you wanted to be a gun-toting version of Batman or Superman and it was preferred if you didn't waffle too much between the two courses of action which ultimately differed mostly in the amount of sass applied in performing the task, posed the question "do the ends justify the means?" but in a mostly inconsequential way and when it did matter you were graded on it and scolded for being a bad boy. I didn't care much for it and other very similar applications of the concept.

Now Dragon Age: Inquisition does it well, I think, you make your own choices and judge yourself on them (there's no one telling you if they're red or blue or various shades of grey) but other people have their own morality system which they'll weigh up your actions against and they may view you in a new light if you continually take actions they disagree with in your quest to save the land. You're not alone on your bike distributing the paper, you're the leader of an unchecked, unregulated organization that aims to wrangle away power from the current institutional holders and with that comes a more thorough analysis of your choices by your allies. How far we've come! And yet, can the Herald of Andraste throw a newspaper at a random peasant and ride away on his trusty mount? Not bloody likely!

I like articles that get me thinking about game mechanics in a new light and this one certainly did. Forgive me for running a bit long with the comment.

Welcome to the Escapist, Lizzy!

Good first article. I have a feeling I'll be learning a lot about retro games here. My parents didn't get me a SNES or Genesis since I was too young for it at the time. Being that my first gaming experience was a split between N64 and Windows 95, these articles are going to be interesting.

It appears I am back on The Escapist.
Congratulations on your first piece, Liz.

Welcome to the Escapist!

I hadn't thought of paperboy as a moral choice game: I always went the true nihilist approach and tried to get all of the points. Then again, I was in grade school at the time...

The hardest moral choice I ever had to make was probably in fallout 3 with the living tree. I actually just gave up and walked away without solving it.

You know, games must be art because nothing says art like pretentious articles reading way too much into something.

Hey, at least it's not as bad as Game Theory, where the speculation is so far removed from the actual material that it's basically fan fiction.

Great first article & well written as usual! makes me wish I had a C64 to go play on now. must get back to gaming.

So it begins

Only ever played the Game Gear version of PaperBoy. Typically I went in to either "ace it" or "Smash it. PaperSmash it all!"
I dont know if I would call that a moral choice over dicking within a game.

So then "Let The BACON Reign!"

oh paperboy...

I remember i fondly.

Do you wreck driveways and windows, or aim for mailboxes?

Do you hit dogs and the elderly, or bullseye a coffee cup?

Good times

Sylveria:
And suddenly Paperboy takes on a whole new level of moral complexity.

I never know if the artists are planning this or just having fun. But it is great to see the final result being surprising.

GiantRedButton:
Sometimes choices are better when not affecting the game that much.
In the first Mass Effect game you needed either a high Paragon or Renagade Score to pass certain tests like keeping Wrex.
The result was that playing anything but entirly paragon or entirly renegade was gimping your character.
The endresult was that Mass Effect only had a single choice instead of many.
Will you be Paragon or Renagade?
And that choice is made at the beginning.

The Witcher games do it much better in my opinion.

Happened in Infamous also. You couldn't have as many powers if you played neutral. The impact of choices shouldn't cripple the growth of a character. The impacts should reflect in scenario options.

What's especially interesting about PaperBoy is that it manages to have the moral aspect without shoving it down your throat and without having it be a bland black/white moral choice system. Which is why I like the link to the GTA series. Sure, you have to do some pretty grim stuff to progress the story in a GTA game, but just the act of driving around without murdering random people is a choice in itself which makes it more interesting to do it. Sort of like not killing enemies in Deus Ex/HR or Thief: Deadly Shadows, not because you aren't allowed to but because you are (within the objectives' limitations).

I'm all for having branched out ability trees and/or storylines depending on actions, but I'm glad that attention is brought to the more... natural? organic? approach. Feels more immersive, and if you can't be arsed about it you can just block it out entirely.

Modern games need more moral choices with consequences that aren't "be good" or "be evil", both from perspective of having choices where there's no right answer and from perspective of choices being made through gameplay as opposed to pressing menu buttons.

i liked it :) welcome to The Escapist Lizzy.

Nothing beats a bit of nostalgia.

I was 6 years old when I first played paperboy, it was one of the first games I ever played. I remember finding it incredibly hilarious that I could throw papers through peoples windows and smack them off random bystanders. I was never very good at the game, but I didn't care; I got a lot of enjoyment out of the fact that I was doing something that would get me in serious trouble if I was to do in real life.

A good start for Lizzy!

I always thought Paperboy was interesting... But could never get good at it. :(

Great first article. And a good topic to look at again.

Morality in player choice expressed in game design, it seems we have slid away from more free-form methods of letting players accomplish their goals in a way that doesn't feel "good or evil" in choice. As others mention, a lot of story games boil down to choice between an obvious good or bad, with consequences reflecting the creator's interpretation or being just a different color of the same result. A game like this though doesn't make any sort of moral statement, rather, every action tends to have a response, and it is up to the player their playstyle (or even their morality in the game) based off of many smaller choices. Being a jerk can create more obstacles, but can be more fun to play. Trying to not be a jerk can require more control and through the mastery of that also be more fun to play. I like that.

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