November 18, 2017
Review of “Decisions That Matter”
“Decisions That Matter” is an interactive game that was developed by the Morality Project program of Carnegie Mellon University, in order to help people combat rape culture by working through the complex situations presented in the game.
It’s very well-done in terms of the quality of the graphics, and the amount of effort put in is apparent. The dialogue is pretty realistic and isn’t cheesy or cringe-y but is a bit stilted in some places. The Point of View (POV) character is part of a friend group of five other characters, two of whom are men. There are three People/Person of Colour (POC) characters in the group and they get very little ‘screen-time’ so to speak. They also don’t influence the narrative much. The POV character also is white. Apart from that, all the characters seem to be cis-gender. The game does give a trigger-warning and also provides an escape button that can be accessed easily at any point during the game.
A lot of the decisions that can be made by the player don’t change the narrative of the game, but the few that do make very drastic changes. As the game’s focus is on the importance of bystander/ally action in preventing and combating rape culture, none of the outcomes of the game place any blame on the ‘victim’. This is obviously encouraging if the game plays out to its ‘good’ conclusion and thought-provoking if the ‘bad’ conclusion is reached. There are only two possible outcomes, and both combat rape culture but in drastically different ways, which is also helpful in increasing the influence that the game can cause.
Another interesting factor is that some of the decisions have a time limit which makes the player’s reaction even more authentic as it simulates how an actual situation of that would occur.
“Decisions that Matter” was developed by a group of graduate students, and this is probably why it accurately captures the weirdness of campus culture. That is, trying to straddle the tensions of wanting to be a cool non-judgemental friend as well as a good and brave person who helps make your environment better and safer.
If played as a part of a workshop with a group discussion after that, and with using other resources, “Decisions that Matter” could be a very useful tool in helping people come up with plans for how they’re going to deal with these types of things in the future. Even without any discussion or working through the complex concepts addressed in the game, ‘Decisions That Matter’ is still a powerful and arresting game, but a little facilitated processing would be extremely beneficial, and would make a greater impact on players. Through a discussion, they would be able to work out way to practically apple whatever they learned by playing in the game and come to terms with any new revelations they may have had. Also playing the game with other people and presumably under the eye of a moderator who is well-equipped in dealing with these types pf situations is way better than playing the game on your own, and then forgetting about immediately. In terms of abusive and/or unsafe-situations, especially among friend-groups, lines are apt to get blurred, and planning for a few ‘likely-to happen’ scenarios could do a lot of good.
To try it out for yourself, click on the link below:
For more resources about what to do if a friend has been sexually assaulted:
Written by: Riya