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Monthly Snapshot: Choose what? I just woke up!

Monthly Snapshot is a regular column here at Ani-Gamers in which one of our writers chooses a moment from some anime, manga, game, or other media that really made an impact on them in the past month. It’s a valuable chance to compare the subjective ways in which we all experience and analyze media. To read previous entries, click here.

Honestly, I’m not even sure if it’s worth issuing a spoiler warning for this snapshot, because what made my jaw drop in Fable III happened in the first five minutes of the game, which is all of a minute or so of cumulative gameplay linked together by several cut-scenes. Before purchasing this game, I heard that it offered up some pretty hard choices and thought myself fully prepared for whatever it had in store. Man, was I ever wrong.

It’s a fine day to be a prince. I’ve slept away the greater part of the morning, when my dry-humored butler wakes me for an appointment. The all-important first major decision of the day? What will I wear for my rendezvous with Elise, a “friend” who is currently awaiting me in the castle’s garden? When I meet with her, she tells me about some rather unpleasant rumors concerning a factory worker’s execution that was condoned by the king (my brother) and the staff’s subsequent sense of uneasiness.

On our way back into the castle, I entreat the kitchen staff to a rousing speech in an attempt to make amends for the lack of appreciation shown them of late. Lauded for my generous words, I then head off with Walter for a bit of casual swordplay. On our way to practice, we come across some protesters in the castle lobby. In sympathy, I sign their petition for better living conditions and continue on with Walter, whom I finally beat in mock battle!
No morning that good can last forever, however, and soon there is news of a ruckus directly outside the castle. “This won’t end well,” says Walter, who’s keen on the king’s ill temper of late and rushes to his side to be his voice of reason. Elise and I eavesdrop on the meeting, and I interrupt when Walter is brought low for advising against the king’s demand for mortal consequences regarding the non-violent protest. As punishment for me intrusion, my brother, determined to make an example of someone, demands that I make the choice: who will die, Elise or a representative sampling of villagers from the ruckus?

My jaw hit the floor. The A button would send Elise to her death, while the X button did the same for the villagers. What?! This is just about five minutes into the game, and already players are faced with the decision of who would be better to kill to satiate the king’s bloodlust. I thought for sure this was a test of being a benevolent person, so despite the king’s warning that all parties would die if I didn’t choose at all, I decided to test his mettle and wait out the decision. I chose no one, and the controller vibrated with ever quickening pulses until the allotted time to decide had expired. Then the villagers and Elise were all dragged off to their deaths. No trick questions. No got-your-noses. Everyone died because of my own indecision. I failed to save anyone.

Choose who must die: Elise (left) or the villagers (right).

In that moment, I felt the gravity of Fable III. Just like a prince or other pampered person of privilege removed from any real consequences, the decision I had faced and its ramifications served as a wake-up call. My chest sank, just as the playable hero’s did in the game, in knowing that I was going to have to make decisions, for better or worse, to avoid further catastrophes in the future. I could no longer call the sidelines my home or my inaction anything less than hurtful to those that needed help the most. This was the perfect setup to a game that makes players experience the thrill of revolution as well as the decisions that besmirch the perceived polished glory of rule.

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