This was an article originally written by Anthony Burch over at Destructiod about Mass Effect and how it handled played choices. He later coined the term the “Wrex Paradox” based on one key situation with the character Wrex. I really enjoyed this read and think you will too. If you care about game design of course.
Basically what he is saying is, the writers of Mass Effect wrote an element of the story which involved you killing one of your friends. The problem is it’s the play’s choice to pull the trigger. A player who likes his NPC ally and doesn’t want him to die will never pull the trigger, and will never see that piece of the story, and will never feel true emotion at the loss of a friend. On the other hand any player who will pull the trigger likely doesn’t like that NPC anyway and won’t really care about his death. That is the paradox. The player who will be most effected by the death of a friend will never choose that line of dialogue.
Recently Starcraft 2 had a plot element that made me think back on this. There is an ally you find in your travels in SC2 and later someone tells you he is really a traitor and a criminal. You get to choose the side of the accuser or the side of your ally. The interesting thing is, is you will always be right. The story totally changes based on what you choose. If you side with your ally then the accusation is false, and it was only a trick to turn you against one another. If you side with the accuser than your ally really was a criminal planning to stab you in the back the whole time. It’s pretty interesting that the player’s wishes are fulfilled either way you choose. I don’t know how I feel about it yet but it makes me wonder how cool it would be if Mass Effect 3 did things similarly.