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Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Archive for April 2019

The Pursuit Of Realism

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Occasionally, I still think about writing. The last thing I thought about writing about was Red Dead Redemption 2 but it turns out Film Crit Hulk has already written my piece for me:

The pursuit of realism in video games, even when it doesn’t make the game more enjoyable, was largely built on the fever dream of young minds who wanted to completely “disappear” into a gaming world. They believed the virtual world should be just as complicated and filled with possibilities as the real world.

This approach doesn’t work in practice. The endless capacity to interact with equally endless items ends up creating endless, but meaningless, interactions. Those meaningless interactions then numb the player to the meaningful aspects of the game.

That happens because these choices don’t actually achieve the feeling of “realism” in our brains. Cooking food in a video game can take one button press or 20, but more button presses won’t fool your brain into thinking you’re actually cooking a dish. Game designers tend to confuse “complicated” with “realistic,” and our minds aren’t wired to think something is real just because it takes a long time to happen and requires many small actions on our part.

The illusion of realism is achieved when games match our expectations and move at the speed of our intentions. The most “realistic” way for me to check a drawer in a game is to quickly see what’s inside it, decide if I want it, and then either take the items or leave them as quickly as possible. That’s what we do when we look into a drawer in real life; we don’t break the task down into dozens of small movements or actions. We just look into the drawer.

And this is how games should approach the same tasks. Ease of functionality is much more “immersive” than a series of button presses and animations that mimic the real thing. Adding more button presses and steps to basic tasks takes me out of the game, in fact, because it makes me impatient as I’m forced to fuck with something that should be moving as quickly as my brain.

Written by Martin

25 April 2019 at 22:06

Posted in games

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