What do you mean by "choice which matters"?

Hi, everybody!
In community we talk much about the attractiveness of stories containing mattering choices, but it seems like the understanding of a “choice which matters” is quite different for different people. I thought a lot on this and here are my considerations.
According to common definition a choice which matters is a choice which somehow affects the story line. I have conditionally classified the mattering choices into four groups:

  1. doubtfully meaningful choices;
  2. locally meaningful choices;
  3. globally meaningful choices;
  4. critically meaningful choices.

Let’s discuss each item separately.
So, doubtfully meaningful choices. I’ll give a simple example.

Cole is going to school and notices his neighbor.

choice “Say hello” {
COLE (talk_greet)
Hello, Mr. Blacksmith!
Hello, Cole!
} “Ignore him” {
COLE (disappointed)
Nah! I’d better just pass by. }

And this information is never used in the story further. That was just a choice for the sake of choice… or possibly to create some atmosphere. This choice affects a couple of next phrases. Technically this choice matters, but indeed?

Let’s transform the above example into the second type of choice.

Let’s suppose that after school Cole has to visit a very important for him audition.
If he starts a conversation with his neighbor, he comes to school late. His teacher gets angry and Cole receives a detention. This becomes some obstacle in the way to his dream (Cole can’t go to the audition because of detention), but Cole’s friends help him to sneak out and Cole gets to the audition in time.
If Cole doesn’t start the conversation with his neighbor, he comes to school in time. The reader receives several scenes, where Cole discusses with his friends how much the audition is important for him and how he is freaking out. After classes Cole successfully gets to the audition.

The result is the same: Cole gets to the audition, because this audition is critically important for the story line. But the way to this audition was different. And I think this is a locally meaningful choice. But if the number of scenes which are different for different branches is big enough, this choice may be considered as globally meaningful. For example, if getting to the audition was the point of the entire story.

And the last item is critically meaningful choices. I think these are choices, which create a fork with no return and SIGNIFICANTLY affect the story ending. Let’s suppose that Cole failed with sneaking out from detention and missed the audition. His dream of becoming a musician didn’t come true and Cole was upset and broken, and that was the sad ending of the story. Otherwise Cole would have successfully passed the audution and become a part of a famous band. And this is a happy ending of the story. And in this case the choice becomes really critical.

But if the critical choice appears somewhere near the end of the story and affects only the last scene or several of those, it’s not a critical, but a locally/globally meaningful choice.

As you can see, the borders between different types of choices are very blurred.

But I’d like to know your opinions.
A. Which choices do you consider as meaningful?
B. Which types of choices do you prefer in stories?
C. Are you annoyed at doubtfully meaningful choices?
And anything else you have/want to add to this topic :slight_smile:


A. I would definitely consider critical choices as meaningful, and possibly globally too, depending on the story and the exact way the choice and its effects are implemented.
B. In a “perfect” story, for me, I would prefer mostly global & critical choices. However, if the all the other storytelling elements are really good (plot, characters, dialogue, directing, etc) then I honestly don’t even need any choices at all in order to enjoy the story.
C. I don’t really get annoyed at doubtfully meaningful choices, especially if the author never claims that all choices matter. In the grand scheme of things, not all choices can be critically meaningful unless the author is a coding legend and can make a new branch for every single choice ever. Ultimately, the author has a main storyline in a mind when creating a story, and 2-3 critical choices every episode could completely through that plot out of line.
Bottom line is for me, if the story is enjoyable in itself, then the quality of choices are essentially irrelevant to me, but if I had to choose, critical and global choices are my preference.


Agree almost a 100% :slight_smile:

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Closing due to one month of inactivity :slight_smile:

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