Researchers Say Too Much Freedom Causes Unhappiness

Scarim Coral

Jumped the ship
Apr 30, 2020
I agreed with this. Sure I loved the characters I made right at the start of Guild Wars 2 but if I had a chance to redo on releaes day my characters will be alot different than they are now (I should of made an Norn Nercomancer, Sylvari Warrior and etc). The reason why I didn't redo it is due to the accomplisement for having an character that old and it would of been a total waste to delete and start the game from scratch.


. . . . . . . .
Aug 3, 2013
Okay. Well then if this is data is correct then game companies also need to stop allowing gamers to save their game and then go back and reload in case they make a bad decision and their character dies. They should also completely disallow players the option for a second play through of a game. And RPGs should totally throw out the option for players to have more than one playable character. You are stuck with your first choice, no alts ever. Yeah those all sound like features that jive with the majority of game player behavior.

Honestly I find the rationalization behind this entire idea monumentally stupid. Saying that allowing people the freedom to pick and choose how to change their characters can only result in the player being unhappy is ludicrous. If they find the new change better, they are happy. If it doesn't work out, they can just use the same feature to go back to what was better. Game characters are not static in modern games. They are a continually changing creature. If the very nature of change is a bad thing for players then that totally negates the reason for some of the most basic game features, such as levels, skills, and better gear.


M-f-ing Jedi Master
Dec 19, 2009
I dunno... sometimes being able to respec (if I'm reading the article right) can be a good thing so you don't end up fucking yourself in the face with a tree trunk wrapped in barbed wire. In some cases, I feel this allows you to optimize your character, even if it happens to take a few tries.

Keep in mind I'm not exactly what you would call a "metagamer." For games that allow customization in skills/abilities/etc. I have a very methodical approach to doing so, and that stems from how methodical I am in designing the character right when the game begins (long story; I'll spare everyone the details).

If I'm allowed to respec my character after investing in some skills and understanding when what works where and how, then I can essentially redesign my character according to my plans for said character without feeling like I've been wasting time dicking around with a bunch of skills that are doing little more than making the game more difficult than it may already be (i.e. Dragon's Dogma or KoA). And if the game itself is essentially telling me that I'm playing it wrong since I should've put that extra point into Dexterity instead of Constitution and I can do nothing about it (fucking Dragon Age...), then frustration is gonna set in, I end up pulling a moment that would make even James Rolfe back away in fear, and the game is gonna end up in the pile of misfit adventures that'll probably never get completed.

Observation: Huh... I guess this means I disagree, heh.


New member
Dec 18, 2009
I may have agreed with this in the past however my recent experience with League of Legends has changed my mind. Sure there is some short term confusion based around the initial decision of which character to choose, but overall the variety of each character and their mechanics adds so much that it creates part of what is fun about the game.

A definition needs to be made between switching between multiple options at will and a permanent change. Most of those examples tended to be based around persistent RPG's and the change was permanent. It's just not an accurate assumption to make when there are so many other types of freedom based choices in video games. Like Skyrim, oh noes I have the freedom to do whatever I like? Seems like if it were making people are unhappy it wouldn't have been the most played game on steam during the year after it's release.

Also the research cited was about photography... not exactly relevant data for this claim...

Also the initial character development was given very little coverage, it's likely not the freedom in terms of character design and class but the freedom to make those choices arbitrary later.

Doc Cannon

I hate custom titles.
Feb 3, 2010
Changing classes might be too much, but respecs are a must have, I don't care what the "professionals" say.


Lurker in the shadows
Feb 3, 2011
I am always a fan of being able to make some changes, Diablo 2 taught me that when one wasted skill point could undo a all the time I had put into it. Maybe the answer here is to implement the respecs used in MMOs, where you can respec whenever you want but it costs you enough that you have to put thought into the respec and won't be respecing every other day.


New member
Sep 18, 2010
Good ol' psychology. "What's good for most is good enough for all. Don't like it? Conform or leave."

Mind you, I do agree that there's such a thing as too much freedom, even in games. Absolute freedom is nothing more than anarchy; absolute freedom in gaming is just a set of dev tools.

Also, I loved the class system in Dragon's Dogma... the classes themselves were a bit too bare-bones, though.


New member
Mar 5, 2011
Anachronism said:
Still, it is true. In RPGs where I can re-spec I tend to worry far more about whether or not I've made the right choices than in ones where I can't. I guess the option to do so all but dares you to second-guess yourself.
I tend to worry more about my decisions when they aren't changeable. Especially in System Shock 2 :p


New member
Sep 26, 2008
Gotta love all these people in here claiming that the research is bull because it doesn't apply to them specifically. Yes, decades worth of research is completely invalidated because of a few outliers. Please, by all means, teach us the ways of the world, since apparently you have it all figured out.

Jingle Fett

New member
Sep 13, 2011
I remember reading a study somewhere a while ago that agreed with this article. Basically the study was measuring satisfaction levels when people purchased stuff, jeans specifically. They compared the findings and found that the more choices a person had, the less satisfaction they got out of their decision (I think it was an on-going study over the course of several decades). Back in the day there were maybe 5 choices of jeans and now there are hundreds. The study found that even though the modern jeans were objectively superior to the ones back in the day, and the person got exactly the ones they wanted, the people reported lower satisfaction levels.

I think the reason was because while their choice may have been a good one, they kept subconsciously worrying about whether there may have been a better one available. There are so many choices, maybe that other pair would have been better.

Want to see a modern example of this in action? Look at all Apple products. They've mastered this concept. Simple, few or limited choices, little to no customization beyond the basics, and generally are more expensive relative to the hardware. And yet it's practically a cult. If you live in southern California, it's the same deal with In 'n Out Burgers. You only have a handful of options, and nothing more and people love it.


New member
Jul 24, 2011
Yeah, I can see the point this article is making. As awesome as it is to have freedom, a lack of guidance, leaving a person to their own devices can cause a loss of interest, dissatisfaction, etc.

Structure is nice. People need goals, and can't always make their own.


New member
May 5, 2010
I think "freedom" may be too broad of a term to be using for the title. Anyway, yes, in life, having too many choices is linked with higher levels of stress, self-doubt, unhappiness, and even procrastination/paralysis in making the decisions. But I don't think being able to respec your character, something that actually has nothing to do with too many choices but rather being able to redo one's choices, quite falls under the purview of such a thing. In fact, the most frequent scenarios where I've seen this studied is where there are a wide range of choices, but the ability to redo one's choice is extremely difficult if not impossible, which is contradictory to this particular psychologist's conclusion. That's not to say being able to change one's mind on a whim can't or doesn't have drawbacks, but I think this particular study tries to extrapolate beyond its scope, or at least that's how it's presented. Which could be the real problem here, as I'm all too familiar with how research can be purposely or mistakenly miscontrued when it is reported to the public at large. This isn't a dig at the OP, but more at the source.


New member
Aug 13, 2008
I think a distinction must be made.

I really hate it when people get into the train of thought that the world would be a happier place if we limited people's choices. I feel like the next step is saying everyone should like white, American things only, because for someone to be not like white and American things is disruptive, unnecessarily complex, and just plain wrong. Even white, American things tend to be more complicated than that.

Having the choice between playing a mage, a warrior, or a rogue, with various sub classes and races, is what makes RPG games fun. These choices are not what is making the game unsatisfactory. What is causing dissatisfaction is knowing you can change any time during the game.

The idea that a person will be stuck with that character for a whole 40 to 300 hour game is what makes them think harder on their decision and find something they are happy with. With the option to change mid game, people don't think hard enough about how they want to play. They think to themselves well I can change it later if I don't like it, and end up thinking twice constantly. Oh! this part was hard for me as a mage, maybe it would be better if I play as a warrior from now. *switches to warrior* Oh shot, this level had a lot of locked chests, maybe I should switch to Rogue so I don't miss any more chests in the future. *switches to rogue* Oh god, that boss enemy was using a lot of fire spells and my mage totally has a killer counter ice spell! This game is so frustrating!

Again, not the choices making the game undesirable, it's the being able to change during the game.

In my opinion at least, I think more developers should take the route of Fallout. Give you some time to play in what you picked and when you try to leave the starter area, give you choice to change if you screwed something up but that's it for the rest of the game. You're stuck with it.

There are times you just start off a game on the wrong foot and you only realize this an hour in and you don't want to restart just to fix one or two things. Mass Effect 2 was horrible about that, because you'd have to go through an un-skippable intro over and over and over again just to reach the character creator.


New member
Jan 12, 2011
Not for me it doesn't.

I love choices, and I love options.

Most of the games I love reflect these qualities.

Fallout, Elder Scrolls, MMORPGs, Minecraft, Terraria, The Binding of Isaac, etc.