How can you know when you are actually making a morally correct choice or not? How can you know if the choices you made were the right or wrong ones? Will every bad decision bring a consequence or not? Those are some of the questions we ask ourselves during our lifetime before we make some serious decisions.
Many games have used the element of morality to engage players in deciding outcomes in series of events and incidents. Whether they would be hero or antihero in Bioware games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, hero or villain in games like inFamous series, or basically dealing with the grey area in Telltale’s games The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, giving players the opportunity to make their own decisions makes the game better. Players have the opportunity to make their own story in the game, and can consciously decide their fate as many fans discuss possible outcomes in forums and social networks.
There is one catch though: most of the games with choices have consequences that are kind of obvious, especially if it’s a simple good/bad side equation. This is kind of disheartening for me since I want to actually question my decisions and feel remorse that I made that choice even though there was another outcome that could be as bad. Mass Effect had one choice like that which was memorable by many fans including me, but there weren’t many like that in the sequels and other games. Now, there is a new kid in the neighborhood.
Justin Amirkhani was just spending a year on the road, traveling around North America and met a variety of game developers for a journalism project, but he got a vision that would become Always Sometimes Monsters when he came back home. That is also when he decided to ask Jake Reardon for help with such an ambitious project while partnering with Devolver Digital to give the necessary aid to bring the game to life, and that gamble was well worth it when they revealed it to the public and subsequently released.
Always Sometimes Monsters is a game about life in its lowest level. You are a vagabond who lost one and only love of your life who is going to get married in a town far away from your home, and your dream job that you fantasized of having. You thought that you had everything you wanted in life but you just lost it all. To make things worse, you didn’t pay your rent so the landlord kicked you out of the building and forced you to sleep in a rough alley.
Always Sometimes Monsters is one of those games that actually affected me emotionally as a result of decisions I made, and how to proceed throughout the story as a good guy or someone who would ruin someone else’s life. The thing is, though, you can’t have a perfect character as you have to compromise in some situations of the game - because in life there are no black-and-white answers. I mostly tried to be as good as possible, but there were some instances which didn’t satisfy a person, or it was an innocent mistake but someone else took it very personally - and held me responsible. There were even some consequences that I couldn’t even try to amend and instead suffered from a decision I made in an instance of the game. This is how bad a payback can be in a game like this.
Before all of that though, I was just having fun at a party hosted by an important person who is in a high position at a publishing company. I, along with others, wanted the opportunity to have a publisher to assist with paying money for our books and apparently he chose me as I brought a drink along with my partner of life and cheered for the success, not knowing the outcome.
Basically, the game gave you the choice to play as a character at the party. You were that important person at first looking around, and you see the person suits your needs as the protagonist of the game. As you finish, you start playing as that chosen character so you have to get into the other room to choose your significant other. You can basically choose anyone in that room to be your lover, even if he or she has the same gender as you do which is great for players who want to explore that type of sexuality and relationship in-game. After toasting for the job the game really gets underway.
Everything you do is a decision you make in the game. The career is the perfect example as you choose which job you want to do, or try to get the easy way to earn fast money - which could be morally questionable, like selling a lost dog to a dog fighting club instead of returning him to his worried owner. The thing is that you have to make money and survive in the game if you want to get through, especially because you need to take any chance to travel from one town to another, either with the help of a friend or by your own means, so be careful if there is an opportunity that could help you in the future. Above all, you have to do anything to reach your lover before it is too late. It is your decision, however, to try to stop the marriage or just deal with it and move on for the sake of your love and the partner.
Always Monsters Sometimes is a gem in my library. It isn’t perfect, but not many games attempt to go through with hard decisions to satisfy the player or just make that player feel remorse from one decision to another (I can’t help but still feel guilty from a few choices I made during my journey to the wedding). The question is, was it worth it? Everyone has different opinions about this as they have gotten different endings, so if you want to know your story, try out the game and see your story unfold.
Are we always, sometimes, monsters? Find out for yourself when you get the game, and happy indie month ladies and gentlemen!
Day 8 | Vagabond Dog