The freedom of having no choice
Linearity in games never bothered me. Not back in the days when Final Fantasy VII was the god tier of video game storytelling, nor that in the current age where open-world is seen as a mandatory “good” tick box to fill. Seems that when the options are taken away from me, I can concentrate on the tasks and enjoy the ride. The moment I’m given half the freedom every apple would get a bite mark and discarded again. Maybe it’s wrong for me. Maybe something better will come along.
It usually takes me about five minutes to make a major life decision, half the time it takes for me to decide which flavour of crisps to purchase. When the big choices are impossible, when the list of pro and cons of each are long enough to measure with a ruler, I know I’m just stalling. I know that the more I stew over them the more I will regret about not taking the other route later on; even if I have never felt bad about the choices I already made. No point feeling bad about a reality that isn’t mine.
I usually end up buying all the flavours anyway. I’m too lazy to rationalising something this minor.
At first I was disappointed that we would never see Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac System. The more I found out about it the more relieved I was that this option was taken out of my hands. Zodiac’s game play is much the same as FFXII – except that for each character you pick a Job Class in the beginning and that character is locked to that class. No way back, short of restarting the game.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life when I was first confronted of splitting off to into compartment specialisations. Sixth form (age of 15 or 16) was a while ago, but it would not leave my mind. It all about selective classes. The smart ones had six choices; my Head of Department deemed me to be too stupid to have that luxury. Five slots were all I had. Five subject choices, five spots to fix my life.
I needed English to survive, and in video game speak my linguistic stats were low. I was appallingly deficient in social sciences due to education interruptions and lack of cultural osmosis, and the society deemed that it was my obligation to know all there’s to know about Western History. I loved Biology. Biology had to be backed up with Chemistry. Chemistry had to be backed up with Physics. Maths was the only thing I was good at. Art was one of the many things I loved. Art without Art History was again, deemed soulless just like being alive and not being interested in history. Oh, Computer Science too. If I were to spend this much time on computers I might as well learn it properly.
Five slots. The more I thought about them the more each strike out felt like a potential snuffed from me, one by one. Left on my own I’d picked first five alphabetically, and wash my hands clean of these, had my family allowed me to do so.
I handed my subject choice form back just before the deadline. My life might have been locked there and then, no more other classes or Classes, jobs or Jobs. All that’s left was What Ifs, What Could Bes.
Back to Final Fantasy XII in my university room and let it be. Then I could tell myself that in real life, I couldn’t have it all and there’s no regret in my choices.
Sometimes I can even make myself believe that there were no regrets. What’s the point, there are no restart choices here.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do in university either, my only consolation was that I had a life time to try and learn. Went a practical route, figured that at least I could have job security. Figured that travelling can wait. Figured that I just needed to get somewhere first. I earned my job security while envying people who have caught up with me in every other field that was the What Ifs for me. I don’t know if I were on the other side, would I be envying this me?
Just as well that I picked a degree that offered no actual class choices. Everything was pre-decided and mandatory. I was entirely okay with that.
There’s Fallout 3, my first Bethesda game, my first exposure to open world games to that degree. When my Vault Kid stepped out of the structured life into the open field, there was the world of potential, the world of personal playground. They could be anything they wanted to be, if only I could figure out what that was.
When my eyes adjusted to the achingly-bright field, when the first shock of the beauty fade away, the freedom suddenly felt more like a vice grip than a gift.
What now? What the fuck am I going to do now?
I still don’t know what I want to grow up as, my time feels like it is running out. The career choice I was once so set on turned out to be less than suitable. It was great at the time, but I changed and I’m ready to move on. I am in university again, following another tube of progression. If I’m to lay out my current study route, it is dead linear until close to the ending where there are a handful of branches. Even then, choose wisely as that it locks me.
Here’s the world on my hands. Pick one class, discard the rest.
I don’t know if I made the right choice, can’t just load and find out the alt routes.
I’m not hesitant because I don’t know what I want. I’m hesitate because I wish I were okay with not mastering everything and not being the best at everything.
If how we play is a reflection on what our compensations for our other deficits, escapism for me then, is either to have it all on one run, or to have no options at all, where I can then max stats on that. I have to make enough agonising choices as it is. Lock onto one, call it linearity, and then I don’t need to beat myself up over the wrong choice. Then I don’t need to look back and grieve for the What Ifs.
The other day I ran into someone I went to high school with. Someone who doesn’t have to kid himself into thinking that he needs to lock onto a choice because he knew where he wanted to end up in all along. He’s doing very well on his route, and I’m happy for him. I just wish I had the same sureness regard to myself.
We never spoke about anything beside exchanging pleasantries. I don’t know if he plays video games, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he does, he’s the sandbox open choices type. After all his life is firmly anchored.
I have a million options and I want to hug them all. All the options in the world. Failing that, don’t ever ask me to choose.