No Choice: Texas

Many people play games to escape from the tough reality they live in, those people should not play Choice: Texas. Choice Texas is an educational, interactive browser-based game. Unlike many games, Choice: Texas explores the unapologetic reality we live in and one of its biggest problems, abortion, and reproductive healthcare, in the state of Texas. In Texas, abortion is legal. However, it is becoming increasingly harder to get it done legally as it is very expensive, and the government is cracking down on abortion laws, making it even harder to get an abortion. In the game, you start out by choosing one of five women- Latrice, Leah, Alex, Jess, or Maria.  The women come from a variety of different demographic, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds. Nonetheless, they all have one thing is common, they all are struggling to make a decision regarding their respective pregnancies. After choosing a woman, you are introduced to her story. As the player, you are to put yourself in the woman’s shoes and make her decisions for her, knowing that each decision you make will drastically alter her future. Because each woman is so different, and their stories so dissimilar, I played as each of the five women, to see how things would play out.

Playing as Latrice 

Latrice was a dark-skinned, curly-haired girl. When she got pregnant, it came as a surprise. In fact, Latrice didn’t want to have a child. Her partner and her career were about to blossom. But she was conflicted, saying “we were older now and… she and Roy’s careers were more stable now. Maybe they could make it work if they wanted to.” So, after telling Roy (her husband) about her pregnancy, we (the player) are presented with our first choice. Roy asks Latrice what she wanted to do with the baby. I chose to have Latrice tell Roy she wanted to keep it. As the story goes on, new information, like the fact that Latrice will probably have to quit her job if she decides to have the baby, arises, and the player has multiple chances to change his mind on the pregnancy. But I analyzed Latrice and Roy’s relationship and believed they would make great parents. In the end, Latrice delivers a beautiful baby boy. Latrice’s story is one that happens very often. A story in which a professional couple falls in love and inadvertently become pregnant, and are forced to choose between their child and their career. As I player, I was not willing to sacrifice the child for Roy and Latrice’s career.

Playing as Leah 

There were some noticeable differences between playing as Leah and playing as Latrice. Leah doesn’t know what happened the night she got pregnant. She worked behind a bar and had gotten dizzy. Mr. Thompson, her supervisor, said he’d made sure she got home safe, but she had woken up in a truck, panties missing and her thighs bruised. She had tried not to think about it, but two months later, she was pregnant. Nonetheless, she is very healthy and could deliver a beautiful child. So, I chose to let her go on with the pregnancy, but I decided to have her put the baby up for adoption. Eventually, Leah’s water breaks, and after holding her daughter for just five minutes, she’s not sure she’s ever going to be willing to let her go. The toughest decision of game presents himself when the player must decide, one last time, whether to keep the baby. After much thought, Leah commits to Adoption. Time passes, and there hasn’t been a day when Leah hasn’t thought about her baby. Leah knew it would be hard to give up her baby, but she didn’t realize just how difficult it would be to keep the child out of her mind. This story explored a different side to abortion, and reproductive health care- its connection to rape. It’s so sad that so many women, like Leah, get raped, and in the process, can end up pregnant. The child has absolutely no fault, yet for the mother, serves as a constant reminder of what is perhaps her most painful experience. I could not let Leah get an abortion, but I also couldn’t let her go through that pain of the constant reminder, adoption seemed like the best course of action.

Playing as Alex

Alex, at only 17 years’ old, was the youngest of the five women in the game. She is in her senior year in high school and is a student athlete. She is expecting to receive multiple offers and scholarships. So, when she is surprised with her pregnancy, she is afraid it will prevent her from doing all of this. When shares the news with Eric, the father, he responds by saying, “What the Hell, I used a condom.” Eric continues, saying that he’s “not going to let [her] drag [him] down if [they’re] going to keep it. I’ll pay support or whatever if I have to, I guess, but I’m not going to be involved.” Alex is shocked and still confused. But as the player, who ultimately makes the decisions for her, I determined that these were no conditions to bring a baby into the world. And decided that Alex will have an abortion. Over time, after the abortion, things settled down for Alex, and the college acceptances and scholarships started rolling in. She’s going to Stanford on a full-ride, the life she’s always dreamed. Out of the five stories, this had the happiest ending.

Playing as Jess 

Jess had short, red hair and glasses. She, unlike many of the others, had a husband, and they both wanted the baby for a long time. But after nineteen weeks, the pregnancy was in danger. The baby had damage in her lungs and kidneys. It was so bad that the doctors told them that they should consider terminating. Jess was devastated, everything was perfectly set out for them to have a baby now- the new house, the stable career, but none of the that mattered now. Jess had never considered abortion but was pro-choice. Later, Richard, her husband, tells jess that maybe they should have an abortion- because he doesn’t want to see the baby suffer. So, as my first choice, I decide that Jess must have an abortion. One year passes, and Jess and her husband are looking at the ultrasound of their new healthy, beautiful baby boy.

Playing as Maria 

Maria was the oldest of the bunch. In fact, she already has three children. Like Jess, Maria is also married to a man named Miguel. Out of the five women, Maria seems to be the one that most struggles financially. When she confirms her pregnancy, she tells Miguel- who takes it well. He seems to want the child. But Maria is afraid due to financial reasons, they can barely afford three kids, imagine four. She tells Miguel about abortion, he is startled, telling her, “were catholic.” Miguel leaves angry and decides to think it over and comes back some time later and decides the abortion is perhaps the best option.  After the abortion; months pass and Maria looks at her family, her complete family. She knows she has made the right decision. Maria as a character and her story were ones that I found to be most strayed from the rest of the women. Maria being of age shows a different side to reproductive health. The fact that she’s not financially stable also presents another issue. As a parent, and in this case, as a player, one must figure out if they can truly provide for their children, and in this case, I didn’t think Maria and Miguel could, and it led to abortion.

In the game, everything came down to one of three options. You could either let the couple have the baby, you could put up the baby for adoption, or you could abort.  The effectiveness and success of this game lie in its ability to establish a connection, or a point of interest, between the player, and the stories. Through this point of connection, the player is then educated about reproductive health- which I believe to be the overall goal of the game developers Allyson Whipple and Carly Kocurek; all passionate feminists. However, for a player like me, it was very hard to identify that point of connection. Through my experience playing the game, I kept feeling uneasy. Putting myself in the shoes of the women made me realize how hard the decisions I had to make were. It put me in a very awkward situation, and in return, I felt sympathy for all the people that share these kinds of stories and have to make these types of decisions.

 

 

References:

  1. Kocurek, Carly, and Allyson Whipper. “Play | Choice: Texas.” Play | Choice: Texas. N.p., 2014. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.
  2. Campbell, Colin. “Choice: Texas brings abortion, controversy to gaming.” Polygon. Polygon, 29 Aug. 2013. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.
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