First released in 2014 and updated since, Choice: Texas (2017) is an educational fiction game about Texan reproductive rights and healthcare (Short). The game is of the narrative genre, as the player chooses one of five female characters and goes through her own personal stories of pregnancy decisions, sexual assault, and trauma. Within these narratives, the reality of Texan legislation and resources are exposed. Thus, the player has to make decisions for the character based on the preset restrictions.
Rarely are video games built in the perspective of the victim, and even more so that this narrative is presented through the lives of five female leads. These protagonists are relatable, everyday women. Most notably, they are not the typical hyper-sexualized female video game characters. The realistic portrayal is the vision of the game’s two creators who are also women. Both from Texas, Carly Kocurek is a video game history lecturer and Allyson Whipple is a writer and a poet (Campbell). And if it was not evident from the game, these two individuals are feminists. Additionally, their team is mostly comprised of women. This legitimizes the game, as real women are telling the real female perspectives of prenatal healthcare.
The mission of Choice: Texas (2017) is to induce societal empathy for women undergoing such events, to raise awareness of the limited access to necessary reproductive medical treatments, and to call for change on both these issues. And as a free browser game, Choice: Texas (2017) is created with the intention to reach all audiences— cross Texas boundaries and cross sexes.
Yet, it is more likely that players are introduced to the game from educational purposes rather than from seeking out the game for entertainment purposes. But after the initial encounter, players are hooked because of the game’s affective aspects. Emphasized by Sid Meirer, “a good game is a series of interesting choices” (Egenfeldt-Nielsen). Thus, the pure structure of the game itself keeps the players interested, while the emotional elements keeps them invested.
This game will be analyzed on the basis of Crawford’s four common video game features. Choice: Texas (2017) is a representation of the logistical and societal reproductive process. The interactive aspect is that beyond the overall pregnancy theme, the game’s narrative is driven by the player’s choices (e.g. which clinic to pursue, whether to undergo an abortion, etc.). While the structure of the game has predetermined/set conflicts, the player is faced with variable conflicts of balancing finances and wellness (e.g. whether to tell her parents and risk being disowned/kicked out of the house or proceeding with the pregnancy with the intent of giving her child up for adoption because it is financially less straining than an abortion, etc.). The safety element is that the consequences in the game do not directly carry over to real life. In fact, the player can journey through the game multiple times with the same or a different character, while making different choices. Here, the player can see the game’s alternative outcomes from the various paths of decisions. Ultimately, the gamer can have a clearer understanding how these same decisions can play out in the real world. Therefore, Choice: Texas (2017) is a macro-involvement narrative because post-game, the gamer is still evaluating the implications of the decisions to his or her own life.
On handling such a controversial issue, certain public have regarded the game as a moral disgrace, saying that it simplifies abortion and disregards the voice of the unborn child (Campbell). Especially with recent Texan legislation restricting abortion, many are angry. It is extremely important to note that the game is not promoting abortion, but rather showing “why and how people make the choices they do, and what makes those choices especially difficult. Abortion is one of several possible paths the characters might consider or ultimately choose. The problems with reproductive healthcare in Texas go far beyond abortion, although that’s the most visible issue” (Campbell quoting Kocurek). In no way is this game showing a biased morality of choice A versus choice B. The player’s personal values, though, will influence the direction of the decisions. Yet, some conservatives do not see past this option of abortion and the Choice: Texas’ YouTube comments were forced to be disabled due to a slew of abusive slurs and threats. Plainly, the game is meant to address the faults in the healthcare system and bring a deeper understanding to the process of each path:
If you live in West Texas do you go to New Mexico to get an abortion there, or do you end up stumbling into a pregnancy crisis center that tries to terrorize you? I really want people to realize how difficult the situations facing a lot of women are. These are horrifying stories, often of middle class women with fairly good access but it gets much worse at the margins. (Campbell quoting Kocurek)
According to Bogost, “the best interactivity [comes] closest to real experience. But meaning in videogames is constructed not through a re-creation of the world, but through selectively modeling appropriate elements of that world”. In accordance, Choice: Texas (2017) is based on the unfortunately ugly facts and thorough research of the modern-day prenatal process. Importantly, this game is relevant to today’s news and events. And so uniquely, the game addresses this topic in such an explicit manner. Furthermore, the creators hope that through highlighting the issues of prenatal care, problems regarding preventative options such as birth control will also receive proper attention.
Bogost, Ian. Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames. Cambridge: MIT, 2008. 28-46. Print.
Campbell, Colin. “Choice: Texas Brings Abortion, Controversy to Gaming.” Polygon. Polygon, 29 Aug. 2013. Web.
Egenfeldt-Nielsen, Simon, Jonas Heide Smith, and Susana Pajares Tosca. Understanding Video Games: The Essential Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2008. 32-44. Print.
Kocurek, Carly and Whipple, Allyson 2017, Choice: Texas, video game, computer, Choice: Texas
Short, Emily. “Choice: Texas.” The Interactive Fiction Database. Michael J. Roberts, 16 May 2015. Web.