The browser based game Choice: Texas, is an educational interactive fiction game that was first released in 2014 with an updated version that was released earlier this year. The game tackles the pivotal, ongoing issue surrounding reproductive healthcare access in Texas.
Players are allowed to choose between five different women, each of who come from a variety of different socioeconomic, demographic and geographic backgrounds but all are struggling to make decisions as a result of the flawed abortion access system. Depending on which of the characters the player chooses, their story changes. Before beginning, the player can either randomly pick a character or read the ‘content note’ tab, with a disclaimer at the top of the page informing players that the information contains spoilers. The page contains details about the overarching issues of each character’s story such as whether it is a sexual assault issue, a dangerous pregnancy crisis, teenage pregnancy amongst others so the player can make a more informed decision as to which story they would like to be a part of. The game is extremely unconventional, as games are not often made where the main character plays the role of a victim. Once a character is chosen, the player is presented with an introductory narrative explaining the characters situation. Once the player presses the continue button, the player is put in the characters shoes and needs to make decisions about what she must do. By clicking on one of the presented options for the way the character chooses to act in the situation, the story unfolds. Each choice the player makes impacts the characters story. There is a restart option on the screen. The character I chose is a 19 year old victim of rape. The narrative highlighted the Texan abortion clinics and how the process is extremely expensive, difficult and could even be unattainable. Alex’s story is one of a teenager who is facing an unexpected pregnancy. Jess, another character is faced with difficult decisions due to a dangerous pregnancy. What is also interesting is the two other characters, Latrice and Maria who are more like well off, upper middle class characters with less traumatic stories, yet facing tough decisions even though they have good finances, a strong supporting network of friends and family and good healthcare access. The characters are also ethnically diverse.
The core team consists of developers Allyson Whipple and Carly Kocurek along with Illustrator Grace Jennings; all passionate feminists fighting hard for a cause they believe in. Although the game is categorized as “interactive fiction”, the narratives are all based on true information stemming from research about legislative restrictions, demographics, geography and access. The scenarios are all absolutely realistic and reflect on real life events that affect women in Texas. Each of the five characters are also easily relatable and extremely realistic characters unlike the extremely sexualized female characters that are portrayed these days in most video games.
The reason that motivated the developers to make such a game is simple; they hoped to raise awareness and make an effort to make a change. In an interview, Kocurek said, “”The game is making a point about how there’s this rhetoric of choice, but it’s really contingent on a lot of factors,” as she discussed the games mission. The game is “a free browser game” which means it’s a computer game played on the internet with free access to all. This method was chosen to maximize the number of people who will play the game. The game is also billed as “a serious game” much like many other games that are released these days to create awareness about social issues plaguing the world these days. Although very serious, the game is interesting and keeps one engaged, making the player think carefully about what decision they will make.
The game is a true representation of a problem plaguing Texans. The players are faced with a conflict wherein they must make choices they believe will be the best for the character they represent. Interactively speaking, the game simply calls for players to choose an option, however it is still extremely engaging with a great emotional reach over its players. Of course, games like these often receive negative reactions amongst the positive ones. Some political figures in favor of the HB2 law say the game is an “unwelcome distraction from the core issue” as it “It reduces abortion to a dry, simplistic view and it completely ignores the voice of the unborn baby, who obviously has no voice or perspective in this at all..” to which Kocurek says the main aim was to show what choices one must make when in that situation and how the people decide what is best to do under the circumstances. The game in no was meant to promote or encourage abortion but merely wants to show that in certain cases abortion is a necessary option.
Choice: Texas is a powerful game with a powerful message. Kocurek sasys that it is her hope that the game makes people think about the issue and understand the woman’s perspective. The game completely submerges the player in the issue. Kocurek also stated that she wants both women and men to play the game. She decided recently to close the youtube comment section on her Choice: Texas instructional video as she was receiving a series of hateful comments where people even resorted to threatening her. The developers goal was to raise awareness in an interactive way, by immersing oneself in the situation, and completely being in the role of the victim. The game has definitely been successful in raising awareness about the gravity of the situation and it will hopefully keep gaining momentum so a change can finally be made.
Kocurek, Carly. “Choice: Texas, a Very Serious Game.” Indiegogo. N.p., 13 Aug. 2013. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.
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.
Campbell, Colin. “Choice: Texas Brings Abortion, Controversy to Gaming.”Polygon. Polygon, 29 Aug. 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2017.