Immersive Fallacy - What are games?

(from GamesAreArt.Com)

(emphasis mine):

"Why does the phrase ‘the player will be able to go anywhere and do anything’ sound like nails on a chalkboard to me? It’s based on a very naïve and unsophisticated understanding of how simulation, how representation works. You have a thing, a part of the world, and you have a simulation of that. There’s a gap in between, the gap is made up by all the differences, the way that this is not this.. the immersive fallacy is this idea that computer simulation allows us to close this gap and makes these things identical. But this gap is an essential part of how this representation works, this gap is where the magic happens.

Let’s say a bear is attacking a friend of yours and is about to kill him. The word ‘bear’ will warn your friend. The word ‘bear’ would not be better if it had teeth and could kill you! The same thing is true of the bear mask that the tribal priest puts on, or the bears on the wall of the cave, and of the game ‘Bear’. Statues wouldn’t be better if they could move. Model airplanes would not be better if they were the same size as airplanes! By the same token, if you think about it, the incredible sense of freedom created by GTA is created by carefully limiting the actions of the player.


Even if you could by some magic create this impossible perfect simulation world, where would you be? You’d need to stick a game in there. You’d need to make chess out of the simulation rocks in your world. It’s like going back to square one. I don’t wanna play chess again. I wanna play a game that has the dense simulation and chess combined. This requires a light touch. This requires respect for the gap. The gap is part of your toolset."

This is where, in my opinion, games like "Second Life" fall flat. Second Life never took the time to create a gap - you can go anywhere and do anything. It tries to be everything that everyone could possibly want, and ends up being a poorly scripted, open-ended third-person action/adventure RPG, with a bunch of minigames stuck in there.

There is no "game", because it's a toy rather than a game. So was SimCity, The Sims and all the other similar building games. But SimCity had you working against economic, social and environmental challenges. The Sims had you working to satisfy the needs of your, well, Sims. You made your own game out of the toy, but then you had to beat the game. In Second Life, there is no game. There is no rush from winning one of the billions of poorly written scripted little minigames, and I don't get any rush from "exploring" the low-polygon-count world and climbing its hills. Getting to the top of a hill the real-world is a much more satisfying experience, but I've already done it and can do it again right here, in real-world, to much greater effect. Like Frank said, "I don't wanna play chess again".


Thursday, August 10th, 2006
jer's picture

Definitely. It's annoying to think that we have to have a way of beating a game for it to be worth playing but at the end of the day a goal of some kind is absolutely necessary. In RL there's a ton of goals that exist and seem important right out of the box (survival, success, love) with even more goals presenting themselves as socially and personally valuable (climbing hills, being popular). In a SL context (whether the game Second Life or any other simulation) where the goal is just "life" you have a problem in convincing people that they should start over doing things they could do in real life where they are more immediate and relevant.

It's interesting to note that every time I go into SL what i DO find is people trying to fulfill real life wants that for whatever reason are inconvenient or innaccessible to them in RL (Fetish/sex stuff, wanton consumerism and questing for garish products, gambling with L$).

(p.s. in WoW you can barely do anything with your environment, yet it plays pretty much like coded crack and has 6 million players. Microsoft's Oblivion (another RPG) on the other hand lets you do anything you want with the environment but gets super-boring super-fast. I don't want to rob people's houses to fund my adventures, I might as well get a job cooking mutton for people.)

Saturday, August 12th, 2006
stevenmansour's picture

That's why I have lots more fun with "toys" than "games", and "physical activity" than sports.

From "Games are art" again:

But fuck results is what I say. Winning is quite a capitalist metaphor where you never care on the "how to" of things and in consequence you start being governed by results and turn to be a shallow void person. Pure play, instead, is something beautiful to see. In life everything is uncertain, you never know what comes next, but if at least you enjoy the beauty of just playing: then you own a rich soul.

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