Too Much Choice

timothymcgrath/ June 23, 2019
sign showing two choices

My four-year old daughter recently started having trouble making choices. We were picking a new board game to purchase, and the massive number of choices would overwhelm her. When I asked her why she didn’t want to just pick one, she responded that she did want to, but she wasn’t sure which one was the right one? What if the one she picked wasn’t the most fun one?

At first I thought, just pick one! It’s just a board game… But soon I realized that this same indecision plagues me. And probably plagues a lot of us.

She realizes that she isn’t just choosing what she wants to do, she’s choosing what she doesn’t want to do.

What Has Netflix Done?

I remember the simplicity of TV when I was a child. I’d turn on the TV at night and choose between a few channels. I would watch X-Files because it was on at 9 PM.

That limited choice was frustrating at the time, but there was comfort in that simplicity.

Now, I turn on the TV, and flip to Netflix. I can spend 15 minutes just flipping through the lists of shows trying to decide what I should watch. There are so many shows, so many movies… Do I want to invest in starting a new series? Do I want to invest in a 2 hour movie?

I can also switch to HBO, Hulu, or Amazon, to find even more endless lists of choices.

I’m not just choosing which show I want to watch. I’m choosing which shows I’m not going to watch.

And Now It Has Happened to Gaming…

Gaming has been headed this route for a while now. But with XBOX Game Pass being introduced, I find myself in a similar scenario.

I have over 100 games at my fingertips. I will never have time to play them all. Which one should I dedicate my time to?

And games have gotten so big! Playing The Witcher 3 isn’t just a few hours. Some of these games are dozens of hours of open world gameplay.

How do I choose which one to play? Which is the best investment of my time?

I Don’t Always Want Choices

This stresses me out. And I suspect it stresses many of us out.

When I don’t want to make a choice, I just slip back into what’s comfortable to me. Overwatch, which I can play for a couple hours, or I can watch a match of Overwatch League for 90 minutes. It’s an easy choice for me, and one that I make often.

Last night, I was choosing between a new XBOX game to start. I strongly considered The Division II, which I had played for a demo for. But the open-world nature of it, the promise of over 50 hours of gameplay seems exhausting to me. It’s a huge commitment!

I instead went with Wolfenstein: The New Order. I chose it because of its simpler design. I’m following a path. I play through the levels. I don’t need to explore the open-world. The game will tell me when I’m done.

I love open-world games. I love games that go on for dozens of hours. But sometimes there is comfort in a game that tells me what to do. A game that has a definitive end in sight.

Wrap Up

I tell my daughter that decisions are hard, and we will probably make wrong decisions. But we can also make another decision tomorrow. We just have to make a choice and make the best of it.

I wish I had better advice than that for her. But the truth is that we are a society that has access to everything, except for the time to do everything.

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