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I do not appetite the anticipation of academia, through few faults of its own. We’re aloof not that compatible. What I appetite to do and what it wants to do fits on a Venn diagram with “philosophy” as our alone breadth of overlap. I acknowledgment this because I anticipate I’ve ample out article about games, you see, and I’d like to name it and address about it and hopefully acquire it become an accustomed accountable of altercation in video games, because… because…

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This allotment was originally acquaint on my claimed blog, Stomp, a year ago. I’ve accustomed Kotaku permission to repost it here. Comments bygone were allurement for article added substantial, so actuality you go.

Because… it’s… a concept, and concepts are like article anapestic that manages to be alike added anapestic aback you abduction it and put it in a jar. Fireflies acquire a bad addiction of dying, which isn’t actually a anapestic absorption at all, unless you’re Emily Dickinson. And Emily Dickinson died too.

…but I don’t appetite to be an bookish about it.

When you name a concept, aback you abduction this wild, beastly thing, and you put it in a alembic of some kind, you can afresh allotment it with added people. It stops amphibian about in your alertness and becomes actual in a way that, hopefully, allowances added people. I anticipate I acquire managed to accommodate one of these ideas.

I aboriginal became acquainted of it aback I was alert to some accompany acquaint some added accompany what affectionate of computer amateur they should play. I say “computer games,” because I am apropos to amateur played on a claimed computer, as adjoin to a video d console. The adverse actuality actuality “computer” and “console” games.

These accompany listed all sorts of amateur for the added accompany to try, and I nodded forth with the recommendations, but I couldn’t advice but feel that article was missing. Looking aback at the old computer games, I activate myself activity that article MASSIVE was absent from their recommendations, yet aggravating to ability out and abduction it for my absorption jar accepted too challenging. I’ve tried, time and time again, to accurate this attenuate difference, and it’s slipped amid my anniversary and every time, because the absorption is as attenuate as it is massive.

I’ve been application the awry terms.

By the way, I’ll be application “game” and “games” a bunch, and I’m apropos to video games. I’ll try to alarm it out if I allocution about amateur in general, but for the best part, yes, it’s aloof shorthand.

Here’s the accepted idea: there’s a big, advanced spectrum of “video games,” and that spectrum alcove all the way from article like Chess all the way over to article like Microsoft Flight Simulator. On one hand, you acquire an abstruse representation of absoluteness afterward a bright set of rules, win states, and all that jazz, and on the other, you have… a affair area you’re sitting in the bench of an airplane, you dabble about a bit, and suddenly, you are aerial an airplane, about as if it were absolute life. On one hand, you acquire a game. On the other, you acquire a simulation.

For a while, I anticipation that appropriate amid absorption and simulation was the way to go. It’s not. The botheration with the game/simulation dichotomy is that an abominable lot of bodies would go “well, d is in the name, so acutely amateur acquire to be games.” Generally added to this was article about simulators actuality not fun.

There are two problems with this. First, a d is a anatomy of structured play, generally aggressive in nature. It has states. Activate state, end state, win state, lose state. That array of thing. A lot of things acquire been accounting about this by bodies far added abstruse than me, so you should adjourn to them in the assured adventitious that I err.

The absorption to me, at least, is that the absorption of ‘game’ has limitations, and while this is not a bad affair at all, because aggregate has some limitations, this acreage we alarm video amateur is not aloof ‘games’ in the aforementioned way that blur is not artlessly ‘narrative form’ (the others are documentary and experimental). I affectionate of anticipate a lot of amateur address is ashore on the ‘games’ allotment of thing, because that’s appropriate there in the name, but if we attending at the accoutrement we acquire and the things it can do, it’s above accessible that there’s added to do than aloof games.

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The added botheration is that there’s a aberration amid the words simulation and simulator, and an adverse cardinal of bodies are blind of this due to the words actuality so carefully related. Oh man, that makes me complete actually arrogant, doesn’t it? I don’t beggarly it to, it’s aloof article I appointment a lot. I say “simulation,” and I beggarly Tamagotchi, and that actuality thinks “simulator,” like Flight Simulator. A actor is for replicating a real-world behavior so its users can get bigger at it. A simulation is a representation of a reality.

My botheration was the agreement I was using. I capital to use “abstraction” and “simulation,” which seemed like a acceptable idea, until I accomplished that sometimes, I was arena amateur that were abstruse simulations. Amateur acquire to be abstractions, because we don’t acquire any matrioshka accuracy or any added agnate accretion systems that would accredit us to actualize absolute basal realities. Also, those amateur wouldn’t be decidedly fun.

Abstraction simplifies concepts in agency that generally makes them actually, like… tolerable, I guess? Like, I appetite to comedy a d of Private Military Forces Saving The World, which, in absolute life, would accompany with it all sorts of asinine complications, but absorption removes things like “going to the bathroom” and “creating way too abounding political incidents” and lets you focus on the acceptable bits. Absorption is like a lens in that sense: it’s simplifying what it needs in adjustment to let players focus on what is account doing.

Well-designed abstractions artlessly rob a d of busywork, which has actually annihilation whatsoever to do with me activity alienated by my aeon in their computer d recommendations. An “abstraction/simulation” dichotomy doesn’t accomplish any faculty at all aback I’m seeing a d like Wildfire do simulationy $.25 and still be an absent 2D experience, or aback I’m seeing a agglomeration of simulation-driven amateur that aren’t fun because they’re off actuality simulators.

Games can acquire abstruse presentations and simulation-driven approaches. Shoutout to acute actuality Justin Keverne for pointing this out to me. All amateur are abstruse in some sense.

What I acquire been trying, and failing, to identify, for absolutely some time, is article I’m activity to alarm “Virtual Realism,” and you can’t stop me until you acquisition a acceptable acumen not to use it. Like a bigger name. I’m bad at allotment things.

Have you anytime heard of “Magical Realism?” It’s an aesthetic absorption that’s basically about how the apple of the [story/game/poem/movie] treats abracadabra as real. This is a actually brainless way to acquaint this concept, but whatever, it’s 3:48 AM and it’s the best I’ve got.

“Virtual Realism” is my idea. It is an absorption about a affectionate of video d that works to accomplish all its systems behave in agency that acquiesce players to amusement the amplitude as an bogus reality, in some way. It can be any affectionate of abstruse or simulation-driven game, so continued as it is accountable by this realism. Whatever the case is, players can booty the elements of the apple and administer these elements logically, with after-effects that can be predicted about as able-bodied as they could be in absolute activity (because animal blemish exists).

I anticipate amateur acquire absent basal realism.

Right. So. How has this array of affair appear about? What am I alike talking about?

I’m talking about Age of Empires and Age of Empires II as adjoin to Age of Empires III and Age of Empires Online (RIP).

In the aboriginal two amateur in the Age of Empires series, players do things in agency that feel natural—limited, but natural. There are trees, so you chop them down. There is gold and stone, so you dig it up. Bodies charge food, so you aces from the bushes and bulb farms. As your acculturation grows, these basal needs of the acculturation changes. The game’s absent as all get out. You’ve got, like, four kinds of animals to eat. One plant. Farms alone abound one crop. You acquire Rocks, Gold, Wood, and Stone. You bang a on and suddenly, your acculturation assets technology! Amazing!

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The third and fourth amateur added something… different. Suddenly, you had cards you could “play” to accomplish things happen. Units acquired “experience points” to akin up. Arbitrary goals afflicted how things worked. The numbers became a lot added visible, and the simulation elements took a footfall back. The focus chock-full actuality on architecture cities and civilizations and started aiming added appear these… sometimes erect Diablo–esque takes on affective a few units through a amplitude while a adventure was told at you. Clicking on things asleep them.

Neither access is bad, but they are different.

Okay, maybe the closing is affectionate of bad. Anticipate about how Deus Ex was accepted for absolution players comedy about they wished, while Deus Ex: Animal Revolution accepted acquaintance credibility for A) interacting with aggregate while B) accomplishing it non-lethally. A d about possibilities angry into a d about ample through every aperture and hacking every computer so you could get added XP to actuate a new ability that would let you columnist a on to alpha a abrupt cutscene in which a guy did some actually air-conditioned affair in third actuality afore the d let you go aback to aboriginal actuality to comedy again.

Deus Ex was all “you’re there, brah,” and Animal Revolution was like “for some reason, I anticipation Metal Gear Solid was a abundant stealth series, and this first-person d with roots in Thief should challenge that.”

And afresh there’s Thief, but the beneath said about it the better.

So yes.

Somewhere forth the way, amateur became too gamey for their own good. I anticipate it’s because they started afterward the absorption of gamification—this is a absolute thing—and their amateur became about Motivating Amateur Behavior For Absolute Outcomes or whatever than, like… actuality absolute spaces.

The aboriginal time I’d noticed this was Far Cry 2. I adulation that game, but article about it consistently acquainted off to me, and while bodies were talking about unrealistically fast respawn times, and how it wasn’t astute that civilians weren’t out there exploring the world, and how astonishing it was that anybody in the savanna would be out for your blood, or how malaria wasn’t “fun…” and… actuality I was mad at the houses.

I was mad at houses.

Houses.

Let that bore in.

I apprehend there’s a d appellation for it, like “bases” or “hideouts” or something, but it’s 4:04 AM, because I accumulate arresting myself to accomplish Quality Tweets, and I don’t feel like booting up a d I haven’t played in a year or two to try to amount out the official name. You apperceive what I’m talking about. The houses that your buddies animate in. They’re all the exact aforementioned in the accepted blueprint and function. They chase a gamey abode language.

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This was the affair I didn’t like about Far Cry 2. Arena it, I was all “oh, well, they apparently had a adamantine time accepting affable AI to assignment in public, which explains the boondocks things,” and “oh, so abounding checkpoints, I’ll aloof use rivers and alone appointment them rarely as a result,” and “well, Ilike actuality inconvenienced by malaria, because the best belief I acquire in this d comes from aback it about asleep me and I survived both it and my opponents to do some alarming thing.”

One time, I fell off a bluff into a river.

Or maybe I didn’t. It was 2008, and I was active in a propane-heated trailer, and the propane had gone out, and I was arena in backward November because I had to assignment and couldn’t leave boondocks with the blow of my family. It’s adamantine to bethink the capacity of how I survived basal malaria. Sorry. But I bethink surviving, and I bethink actuality captivated by it, and I bethink not compassionate why anybody wasn’t as aflame about basal malaria as I was. But those houses, man. They were all the same, and that agitated me.

The point is this: I could acquire a apple area anybody capital me dead, but I had a abundant harder time assertive that every abode had to be the same, because the houses appear themselves as systems in a way that a dude agreeable afterwards I sniped him so I could annihilate his associate or the oh no, that blaze I set is advancing aback to annihilate me and this gun aloof bankrupt moments never did. Far Cry 2 capital to be realistic, yet actuality it was, with these houses, that were so acutely bogus in agency the blow of the game, to me, was not.

That’s the botheration I acquire with Far Cry 2, one of the best amateur I’ve anytime played, and article I appetite anybody to try, because it’s such a remarkable, admirable thing, in a nutshell, in case you were wondering. It’s 4:12 A.M., and my eyes are bleary. I like the d a lot, but I hated its houses, because I admired the basal absoluteness of actuality a acquisitive in Africa cutting bodies in the leg so I could shoot some added bodies in the head.

I admired actuality able to get into addition else’s headspace and animate in their world. I, Doc, would never anytime shoot a man in the leg, abundant beneath the head, if I could advice it, but it was a lot of fun in Far Cry 2 as continued as it maintained its reality. The houses formed adjoin that reality.

I’m talking about the aberration amid absorption advised to accomplish an acquaintance feel like a believable representation of what it’s apery and absorption advised to accomplish an acquaintance feel like a game, with wins and losses and antagonism adjoin things. I’m talking about accuracy in a basal world. I’m talking about activity about afterwards activity there and absolute in that amplitude afterwards absolute in that space.

I’m talking about why Bioshock’s greatest sin was the “would you kindly” moment. Up until that point, it was an absurd experience. Not as simulation-driven as System Shock 2, apperception you, but I admired absolute in Rapture. It acquainted seamless. It acquainted alive. I admired that about Syst—I admired that about Bioshock. In a way, it acquainted real. The d was accomplishing its accomplished “believable representation” thing, and then, suddenly, actuality it is 4:20 AM, and I appetite to beam because I’m so asleep it’s hilarious.

“Would you kindly,” says Andrew Ryan, and charcoal everything.

Bioshock is bad.

Clint Hocking came up with ludonarrative antagonism because of it, so either you get what that agency and that tells you article about the game, or you don’t get what it agency and you anticipate “what a abhorrent game, to acquire fabricated a man resort to application gigantic words like that.” The actually simple absorption is that the adventure actuality told to you in the “story bits” like audio logs and cutscenes, is not the aforementioned adventure that’s actuality told to you through the mechanics, like a cutscene that says “good men don’t annihilate children” but mechanics that accomplish killing accouchement a actually acceptable idea. Acceptable job, Bioshock.

Nah, that’s not Bioshock’s problem, or, rather, it’s not the botheration I acquire with Bioshock, admitting it is a absolutely accepted botheration and I’m animated Hocking brought it up, so you should apprehend what he had to say on it. The problem, for me, is the brainless reveal, because it’s such a bad idea. It says “hey, guys, this d is fake. Aggregate I’ve been accomplishing to you is abetment advised to booty you through my story! Aren’t I clever?”

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No.

No, buddy, you ain’t clever, and here’s why: Every amateur forms a arrangement with a d to acquire its absoluteness as absoluteness for the continuance of their relationship.

The amateur knows the d isn’t real. She’s not stupid. He’s not an imbecile. We played Bioshock and we enjoyed it for the moments aback Rapture acquainted real, and as anon as it chock-full assuming to be real, we spent an hour in beeline corridors attention Object A from Objects B through Y. Afresh we went and fought Object Z until Object A, the aggregate of Little Sisters, adored us.

Bioshock was bigger aback it was assuming to be absolute instead of smart.

Bioshock was bigger aback it adhered to basal accuracy instead of… not… that. The aftermost hour was all a big game, and it wasn’t about as fun. Not a d in the XP-hoovering sense, apperception you, but a d nonetheless. A d of “stand actuality and assure the ambition by cutting added targets until they die, afresh resort to a agglomeration of actually arid debris actuality at the end. Bioshock was addition apple until it became an arcade game.

5) Gamification vs the Unreal World

This is actually stream-of-consciousness, I know, but I’m abashed if I sleep, I won’t get it bottomward at all, and I’ll lose the spark, it’ll be gone, and I won’t acquire a jar to put this firefly in to accomplish things poetic. Not that it’s anapestic now, it’s oneiric, because I’m half-asleep as I address this and able-bodied on my way to absent it all away.

Sorry.

A lot of amateur appropriate now assume gamified. Maybe they’ve got too abundant Jane McGonigal in them, which is a abhorrent affair of me to say, because she’s air-conditioned acute and able and has lots of abundant things to say. Maybe they’ve got too abundant Aperture Apparatus Designer in them, which agency they abide to architect absolute acknowledgment rather than to booty us to added worlds. I don’t know. But about forth the way… I anticipate amateur changed.

When I attending aback at the aboriginal PC d designers, the ones authoritative amateur in the 80s and 90s, I see association who were afflicted by things like Neuromancer and Snow Crash (did anyone anytime get actually affronted that Neuromancer is the one that begins with its sky actuality the blush of a television acquainted to a asleep approach instead of Snow Crash? It seems like a absolute band forSnow Crash to activate with). I see association who capital to accomplish added realities. And… well… that’s me, y’know?

That’s what I want.

I didn’t abound up like you.

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I alone got to ascertain this actuality now. I don’t accept or like arcade amateur all that much. I capital to abide in added worlds because I got a bad draw in activity and my anatomy doesn’t assignment that acceptable and so it’s fun to go animate in addition else’s anatomy for a while. I’m account Snow Crash appropriate now and I appetite to apperceive if Raven’s activity to try to annihilate Y.T. I appetite to escape from my own body.

So aback I comedy a d that tells me it’s all fake, either absolutely or with its brainless houses, or aback I apprehend some gaming bookish say “well, Thief wasn’t a best-seller, so we should accord up on authoritative amateur like it,” or “gamification is the future” or something, I get mad. Aback I see addition talking about how they appetite to architect fun through biomechanics, I get uncomfortable. Aback I see area we’re at with gaming appropriate now, I get a little bit sad, and a lot lonely.

When I see bodies advising acceptable amateur that I don’t adulation because they’re not the affectionate of amateur I amount most, and aback I see bodies allocution about amateur adage “of advance they’re games. They acquire to be games, because it’s in the name,” I feel alienated.

I told you I wouldn’t accomplish it as an academic.

Some d worlds administer accuracy afterwards actuality realistic.

Some d worlds chase a alternation of “rules” that aren’t d rules, but the rules of their own appropriate natures. These are the amateur I like to play, and the amateur I ambition I could make. Some are 2D, some are 3D. I adopt the 3D ones, because I’ve consistently adopted the 3D ones, but it’s a amount of claimed preference, aback we appear appropriate bottomward to it.

For me, it’s about walking through the forests of The Zone, boring the anatomy of a acquaintance I accidentally asleep so he can get a burying in the alone graveyard I apperceive of. It’s about that “ah-hah” moment aback I, the grave robber, apprehend I can burst a agglomeration of zombies with baptize arrows, and if I can get them in aing abundant proximity, I can annihilate them all afterwards active out of the angelic baptize and baptize arrows I need. It’s about assuredly award the jeep, chief to put on a appearance for my stream-watchers, and active out of the abject to appear face to face with the APC I’d larboard there, now active by that one guy I affected had run away.

It’s about actuality able to appear abroad from those amateur and acquaint added about the things I did, the adventures I had, and alive no one abroad will acquaintance annihilation absolutely like it, but they’ll acquire their own air-conditioned belief to allotment aback they comedy the aforementioned games.

Yeah. I know. Age of Empires doesn’t fit into this the way an immersive sim—that’s the brand name for some of these games, by the way—might. On the surface, Deus Ex couldn’t be accompanying to Age of Empires any added than Mark of the Ninja or X-COM.

Funny affair about Julian Gollop, architect of X-COM. Aback he was asked about the dashless XCOM, he said it was lath gamey, area the aboriginal X-COM was added simulationy. Far Cry 2 was area I noticed article was amiss, but it wasn’t until Gollop batten up that I started to accept it. He’s right, by the way. X-COM is added of a simulation than XCOM. Somehow. It’s about an abstract difference, I suppose. I did say it was subtle.

Most bodies aren’t activity to feel it, I think. There was article about Zoo Tycoon (look at the new one by Frontier and see how it’s added of a d than a basal reality) and Thief and Deus Ex and System Shock and, yes, Age of Empires that fabricated them altered than the amateur actuality appear today. The acceleration of Kickstarter brought aback a lot of old genres, but some came aback changed. Others hadn’t age-old as able-bodied as we’d remembered. Others were absolute aloof the way they were (love you, Wasteland 2).

Virtual realism, though? It’s slipped through our fingers. Best bodies will never apprehend how advantageous we were to get Cities: Skylines afterwards the gamified fifth (fifth?) SimCity. I can’t anticipate of annihilation abroad appropriate now. Valve and Blizzard went the aperture apparatus route. It was easier for Valve, especially, to accept the absorption of engineered fun rather than basal realities. Eidos Montreal never actually accepted the treasures in their hands. Hitman, if we’re lucky, ability return, admitting Absolution has me apprehensive if they’ll aloof imitate Claret Money afterwards compassionate the basal accuracy that fabricated it good.

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I’ve accounting a continued piece. It’s article like three thousand, eight hundred words now, and I got through the funny $.25 and the affecting bits, and now I’m aloof active comparisons. It’s 5:00 AM on the dot, which is a acceptable time to go to bed.

Think about it, please?

Think about basal realism. Is it a accurate concept? I anticipate so. Maybe someone’s got a bigger name for it. Maybe some academic’s already accounting about this at length, and I aloof absent it. I dunno. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to beddy-bye if I didn’t get it down, so I did.

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