Have you ever seen people play games like Garry’s Mod, Black & White, or GTA? I have been trying to figure out the purpose of the most purposeless play I have seen in games. That is the non-sequitur exploratory play found in simulation sandbox games.
No problem cannot be solved with enough duct tape.
One of the most exhilarating and interesting events in games is when you have to improvise. You aren’t executing a rote formula for success, and you aren’t bumbling around randomly, but recombining knowledge to create a new strategy, tailor-made to the situation at hand. Games with procedural generation and complex systems can often create situations where necessity is the mother of invention, and player of roguelikes and emergent sandbox games will tell you how much fun that can be. But what is actually happening? And can you get better at adaptation through practice?
Are humans terrible? Is civilisation a bad idea? People don’t realise it but these ideas, along with fate, karma, and anarchy, appeal because people think that reality is a video game. But is life really a game?
In the past I have argued that humans have had a net negative influence on life and that Earth might be better off without them. I have also been tempted on occasion to say, “to hell with this silliness,” and leave the complexity of modern civilisation behind in favour of a simpler existence. But I have not been able to sustain either of these positions. They both crumble for the same reason.
The mechanics of a virtual world are just as important as visual fidelity for becoming immersed in that world. But comparatively little attention has been given to the simulation half of the immersion equation. Many pervasive misconceptions abound.