Dysfunctionality and a Lack of Player Agency

It occurred to me while reading the description for “Perfect World” that,┬áin all the works that we’ve looked at so far that fall under the “dysfunctional” category, there has been a distinctive lack of player agency. In 17776, all you as the reader had to do was scroll through the story, watch the videos, and click “continue” to progress to the next chapter, but there were no player choices that would impact the final outcome or change the story in any way. In The Gathering Cloud, all you did was mouse over the words in red to reveal mysterious sentences and click through to each of the “plates,” but again, with no choices to make or ways to impact the text. These two works seemed to be more about creating texts that people could read rather than games where the player could change the story by interacting with it.

On the other hand, “Perfect World,” being a Twine game, gave off the illusion of player agency, since there were different choices to make that changed the storyline somewhat, but it ended the same every time, with a sense of defeat and sadness and a thoroughly glitched page of unreadable text. After going through the work a couple of times, trying and failing to get a different ending, I ended up scrolling down to read the author’s description of the work, and found an interesting statement within it.

The author says in the description that “Perfect World” is one of his works that is “built around deconstructing player agency in different ways.” I thought this was interesting on its own, since the use of Twine gives the player choices, but your agency is compromised since the endings are all the same no matter what choices you make along the way. However, later I started thinking about the other “dysfunctional” works we’ve looked at this week, and I realized that this lack of player agency applied to all of them. My question is, is it merely a coincidence that all these works lack player agency, or is it part of what makes a work dysfunctional?

Screenshot of the description beneath “Perfect World.” (Click image for source)

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