First of all, I ask you to understand that some of the designs I’ll be writing here will be about experiences. They may be games without many interactions, or these games may be about concepts that are hard to talk about. As someone who believes that games are the best way to deliver experiences, better than songs, movies or books, I believe that games should talk about things that are complicated to talk about. And this is the first design where I talk about a hard choice.
This game is about making choices.
Not choices like “should I eat pie or should I eat a cookie?” These are questions that won’t change any life at all. The choices I want to make the player choose are harder than it. Are about what defines, in the player mind, a good Doctor.
I want the player to choose between the chance of a sad life, filled with drugs and sickness, and an easy, painless death. What’s the most humane thing to do, as a Doctor? I believe that games can allow us to ask these questions without feeling “guilty” for it.
For instance, in one case you have this patient. He’s very sick, his family can’t afford to keep him in the hospital, the insurance may cover the first part of the treatment, but the way he’s going to be after it, being a surgery or just heavy medication? The insurance may not able to cover it.
At very same time, the insurance the family may receive, if he’s dead, it will be enough to let them live for some time. He’s a retired worker, and there is not many openings in the industry for his area of expertise, so even if he was healthy enough to work, he wouldn’t be able to get as much as he got once before.
What’s the most correct thing to do? As a Doctor, of course it would be to save the patient. You do what you need to do, and hope for the best. You did your job, he got the treatment, and you may be able to help the family after it.
But… Is it the most humane thing to do? The patient may suffer for a long time, the family may not have the conditions to help them… And what if the patient himself asked for you to kill him? After he thought every single thing he needed to think about? After each single possibility was considered? Would you say, again, that allowing him to live in pain is the most humane thing to do? The most correct thing?
I’m not saying that the main character, the Doctor, should walk around, and kill every single patient as he pleases. But I want the player to talk with them. To explain that, for a long time, they will need some expensive medicine, or take a serious care about what they do. I want to let the players be moved by the families involved, if there is any. If the patient does anything that make the player think that they don’t know what to do – they may say, with most absolute confidence, that they want to die, but they may be so heavily medicated that they were not able to think that much about it. Or the opposite, they may be so sedated that they can’t understand how much suffering they’ll have after it.
That’s the beauty of games, after all. No one will suffer when you answer these questions yourself.