stevenmansour's blog

Immersive Fallacy - What are games? | Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

(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".