Holy shit, a five kilometer long back and forth between gimmy and toast. What conclusions will they reach??? Let's not find out.
Hahahah. Well, I don't hide my nature. Theory turns me on.
In my head I've always had: an option is a single path towards a goal, a choice is a collection of options (i.e. a single one). For example, I have 3 options that make up a single choice, or in the same example, 3 choices that make up a single choice. I can say, "Benny, you have a tough choice to make; here are your options..." or "Benny, you have 3 choices...."
You mean like:
. option: walking or driving to the theater
. choice: driving to the theater or driving to the amusement park.
The difference is a matter of perspective. There is an implied goal given for the "choice" - theater or amusement park - which is: to "have a good time" or something like that, in which case the choice becomes an option by your definition i.e. going to the theater or the amusement part to have a good time.
I feel like there is value in the distinction though.
I'm going to spin off about the "execution only" strategies, or effort. Track and field, for Olympians, is riddled with choices. They have to get to a very particular mental place that gives them the edge that they need, and adapt to the changing situation, their mood and the state of their body. To a spectator, their process may seem mechanical, but if those observations were true then the competition wouldn't be interesting to the competitors or the fans.
I like to think about how interesting swinging a Samurai sword in the perfect way is interesting, because I like Japan, and anime, and all the stuff. High-performance competitors have to navigate a rich world that is their minds every time they perform. They must always find the path between their current (mental) state and the goal (mental) state - which itself has a definition that is in a constant development. As the game changes and the performer's emotions change, he/she has to find new ways to navigate around inside his head, often getting into positions that are in some significant way novel to him. Spectators like seeing how the athletes (or whatever) will "make do" this
Straight execution can become very deep if the player is motivated, and has some way to relate his decisions to results. The decisions are made in the head, not reflected directly through action, but some nuance is represented through behaviour.
In your break-down, the category "potential" I'd call something like "impact."
I read a blog post that was linked in your recent Zelda thread, which was about the author's personal opinion about the decline of the series (well, partial decline). There is a similar point there to the one you made about Mass Effect, in which the player is given powers that have one-situation-only uses. I'm reminded of a doll my sister had when we were young: Ernie from Sesame Street. He had a button to button, a zipper to zipper, a shoe-lace to tie, a snap to snap. Each was independent. The joy came from the tactile experience. The ME example is like that doll.
Zelda, as the blog poster said, used to be about discovering within a world, or the player's skill set, or the mechanics of a screen, then became about finding the right key to put in the right hole, pulled from the player's ever-growing key chain. There is some joy in doing that - tactile - but it wears thin. What it does do is take the discovery and "choice-making" of the original titles and make them obvious to the player, though removing much of its depth; that's why it was done.
A "pure" sandbox can have depth. Goal setting is inherent to the human mind. Decision is all about comparing possible futures, which allows us to carry on living (and reproducing). Life is a sandbox. The technical division lies in what counts as part of the game.
If I play in sandbox, technically, then the sandbox gives me no goals: agreed. However, I might create my own games. In fact, I have to in-order to grow. I'm making choices because I'm human. Without choice I'm not doing anything, in which case I'm not experiencing the sandbox at all.
So the sandbox doesn't enforce a choice; but no game enforces a choice. Mass Effect may give me a story choice, but whether I perceive that as a choice is not a guarantee. Taking it to the extreme, if I don't understand what's happening, say because I'm a monkey (and pressing buttons randomly), then my action isn't a choice connected to the "choice" the game presented to me.
The choice that a player makes and the "choice" that a game provides are always distinct things. They share an non-definable relationship. You can in no way prove that a game's mechanics gives any given player a choice. All you can make are general statements.
So, I can play a sandbox and be inspired to set my own goals, maybe subconsciously, then make choices towards those goals. Or I can play Mass Effect and make no choices at all, or make choices that are partially related to what I'm given, or the more likely case: make choices that are heavily related to what I'm given, but still entirely independent from other players' choices in some non-trivial way.
Saying that a game "definitively" creates choice for the player or not is an arbitrary distinction. Sandbox doesn't cross a boundary where "no choice" is enforced on the player. No choice is ever enforced. All we have are games that sort-of, generally, create choices that are "something like this
." In the end all that matters is whether the player encounters a choice.
But I agree with the sentiment, and nearly everything. I'm circling semantics, which are by definition perspective-based (and thus provide no right answer). But the conversation is useful.
I break down games in the way that you have all the time too. I have a big list. It's something I always want to see more of.