The Nature of Choice

I’m feeling a bit philosophical today so if you’re not in a similar mood, I’d recommend coming back to this post at a later date. Fair warning.

In exploring the possibilities and challenges of interactive fiction, I find myself constantly bumping up against the thorny philosophical, and occasionally theological, question of choice. How much choice do we actually have? How much influence over the outcome of our lives?

You see, in writing IF, I often find that I’m creating the illusion of choice and freedom. Readers can choose from a variety of options in any given situation and those choices do have real effects on the story. Yet they are always driven inexorably forward to certain major milestones. While in the midst of creating such works of false freedom, I can’t help but wonder if real life is rather similar. We can make choices, thousands of them on any given day, but do they really change what happens in a meaningful way? Or do they just thrust onto side streets and down rabbit holes that all lead ultimately to the same place?

And would it really be so bad if that’s the way it all worked?

Is our free will really as important as we think it is? Or could we possibly take some comfort from knowing that the course of our lives is unfolding according to the grand plans of a master writer?

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