The Dialogue Wheel Effect

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by Nick Schager

Role-playing games are built around talking. And talking in video games is, in most cases, seriously boring.

The most appealing part of game interactivity is action — being able to control how your avatar moves, fights, behaves. Sitting through long-winded expository discussions between characters can be a monumental drag, either because you have next to no influence over the course of the conversation, or because, if given the option to pick from a predetermined set of questions and answers, the minor control you’re given doesn’t make up for the inertia-inducing dullness of the chats.

Participating in talky sequences is certainly better than just sitting through totally scripted cutscenes. But they still break up the action’s momentum in a noticeable way, and give you such a flimsy sense of actual contribution to the direction of the storyline that they mostly just frustrate by highlighting the limitations of game construction.

And then there’s “Mass Effect” and its recently released sequel “Mass Effect 2,” produced by expert RPG outfit BioWare.

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