Unsimulated Reality


Dwarf Fortress. All the cool kids are playing it. 

In my last post I mentioned Scott McCloud’s famous non-fiction comic book called Understanding Comics. Retrospectively, it was a total digression in my last post, but I do think there is an interesting point in cartooning where simplifying the way the characters are drawn can be a powerful tool for a better reader experience. People can breeze through the panels at a good speed because of the simplicity of the panels. You can slow down the pace and introduce a highly detailed panel. Its a very interesting thing to think about. The simple face also has other functions as well, but I won’t go into detail about them, like how were are more able to identify with the characters when they are drawn simply…


So my little thought of the morning is that games are great at unsimulating reality. It’s probably not a new idea and was like a trend in discussions in like 1998 or something, or Chris Crawford and some homies of his knew this from the get-go, when they were imagining the entire future of gaming in a garage or something. Its a footnote in Huizinga’s Homo Ludens, right?

Anyhow,  games simplify the complex, robust and messy way in which reality is normally presented to us, so that we can focus on a bit less complicated set of rules, for whatever purpose the players and/or the designers decide. When we play chess, for example, we are simplifying war to a set of rules so we can perhaps have a more pure and less violent way of competing with each other while learning about the art of strategy. Really we aren’t adding to reality as much as we are taking away from reality and just keeping a few rules. I say we as if I design games, but as a player as well, we are choosing to enter into this world of new rules.



This is the main graphical difference between the NES and the SNES versions of Zelda, but is one necessarily better than the other?

There is a trend to have greater and greater fidelity of reality with in video game simulation, but I am guessing that it will hit a roadblock at some point. People will not necessarily want to pay for hi-reality simulation once the novelty wears off. Myself, I am fine to have either amazing graphical quality or pixelated characters. In fact, I kind of prefer the pixelated characters, not because they are childish or silly, but so I can focus on the other qualities of the game despite the graphics, the gameplay, the controls, the story, the aesthetics and all the wacky stuff that can happen within the gameworld. So if that’s the case for graphics, what about other aspects of reality that could be unsimulated, or simplified?

I would say the story can be simplified as well because the art of the game doesn’t seem to be the story. But I don’t totally buy this argument. I think that having story in games is actually another kind of genre. People love it and want it despite all the theoretical arguments academics and game developers have argued about. Really, you can tailor the experience in any sort of way with an amazing array of effects. Chess can be said to be a chiseling down of the realities of war into something that two people can sit down and do. How cool is that when you think of it that way?

Shoot! Coffee is gone and I better be off to work!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s