I was thinking today about how Interactice Fiction handles character development, specifically in the protagonist, and how character stats or relationship bars often lead to the game inadvertently discouraging or occasionally even outright punishing the player for trying to move the character in a different direction from how they were originally created in the beginning of the game.
For example, in a lot of games on this site you’ll have a stat showing how much the player character displays a certain trait. So you’ll have this bar on the stats screen that goes in one direction if you make say, cruel choices, and in the other if you make kind ones. Now, in some games, this bar is completely useless and doesn’t effect anything, it’s just flavor. While I have thoughts on that, it isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the games in which certain content, be it a scene, a romance option, equipment, etc. can only be accessed if the player character is on one side or the other of the bar by a certain amount. Anything less than that, and the content is inaccessible for that character.
In effect, this leads to players a) not seeing certain content due to their choices or b) actively avoiding choices they would otherwise make (and might fit into the story they want to experience within the game) because they’re afraid of locking themselves out of content. As a result, the player character ends up kind of flat, when they could be much more complex.
I could provide more examples of what I mean, but I’m already going on long enough, so I’ll close out by asking if anyone else agrees that this is a problem (or disagrees, I’m happy to be wrong) or if anyone has come to a solution, or really if anyone else has something to say on the topic.