Sunday, May 25, 2014

Simulating Reality in Video Games

The term 'gaming realism' might come across as a contradiction, but in terms of enjoyment, many gamers prefer realism. It's an often unspoken truth that most modern game designer's aim for realism.
From the perspective of fictional genres like role playing or adventure or non-fictional genres like sports and simulators all games improve when the environment, music, and game play have a psychological effect on the player, such that the player literally forgets that he or she is playing a video game.

The best example of entertainment is always that which the viewer forgets that he or she is being entertained and simply enjoys the moment.

While a lot of games are fun to play, addicting, and deceptively easy, some games go for that extra mile...

Example #1:
The first Unreal used cutting-edge graphics and choreographed music to pull the player into an alien world.
At the beginning of the game when you leave the prison ship and find yourself on a alien world, the music and the extreme beauty of the surrounding area pulls in the player. Then after you venture out and become relaxed by the music and at ease with the paradise-like surroundings you are attacked by two huge aliens with rocket-powered handguns. there was no time to think. It's fight or flight!. Personally, I was running for my life...
Then in the next level after much exploring, you are in a cavern. The lights go out one-by-one suddenly you are face to face with a knife-wielding monster. After you die or after you kill him, you breath a sigh of relief and look about the room you are in (outside the game) and you remember "this is just a game".

Example #2:
The blood and guts routine of the first Diablo game may have been too much for some players, but for me it was a breath of fresh air.
I have always had a disdain feeling for movies where an army of zombies or a league of demons would kill 99% of the world's inhabitants then be mindful enough to remove the dead bodies from the streets and sidewalks. At the moment, the movie ended for me. I was no longer 'took in' by what the characters were doing.
Whereas in Diablo 1, the player is in pursuit of a band of demons who kidnapped a group of people, ransacked a church, and killed everyone inside. We 'the players' of this game knew that everyone died, because their bodies were scattered, all over the place. Hanging, from ceiling, shoved into walls, half-eaten, ripped to pieces...heads and limbs were used a d├ęcor. That is realism.

Example #3:
The Dragon Age Saga is one set of games that sought realism through relationships, both personal and political.
These relationships affect gameplay and the ability of the player to beat the game; much like real life. Some relationships are constructive and empowering while other relationships are destructive and harm our advancement.

Example #4:
Another such games is "Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem", wherein the game designer's used sanity effects and real-world sounds to mess with the mind of the player.

Sanity effects:

The game's standout concept, patented by Nintendo, is the "sanity meter", a green bar on screen which is depleted by various events, generally when the character is seen by an enemy. It can be restored by such actions as performing a "finishing move" on an enemy or casting a restorative spell. As the bar becomes low, subtle changes are made to the environment and random unusual events begin to occur, reflecting the character's slackening grip on reality. If the bar remains empty, further damage to sanity decreases the player character's health.

One effect which is consistently used is a skewed camera angle accompanied by whispers, cries, and unsettling noises. The lower the sanity meter, the more skewed the camera angle and the louder the sound effects. Fourth wall breaking effects include simulated errors and anomalies of the TV or GameCube (one effect being a Blue Screen of Death); this does not affect gameplay unless the player misconstrues them as actual technical malfunctions and attempts to correct them. There are many different sanity effects, the length they last depends on each effect. Not all effects will necessarily be encountered during a given run through the game. A few more commonplace examples include sounds, such as footsteps, women and children screaming, doors slamming, the rattling of chains and the sound of a blade being sharpened; the player character finding him/herself walking upon the ceiling after entering a new room; walls and ceilings bleeding; the volume being lowered, accompanied by a fake television volume indicator on the screen; and the appearance of large numbers of monsters that are not really there, and disappear when attacked. Some sanity effects are character- or area-specific and reflect the individual's personal fears or experiences or take advantage of environmental features (such as a statue whose head turns to follow the player). When the sanity effect is finished, everything goes back to normal and the character often utters a panicked statement to the effect of, "this can't be happening!"

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