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.
What is play? How do I know if I am doing it properly? Fear not, I will provide you with a comprehensive walkthrough – all the ways in which it is possible to play, and how they relate to each other.
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.
To make a game immersive, we don’t need total realism, but would be better off aiming for the centre of the realism-gamism spectrum. Doing so will be easier with stylised mechanics and process intensity. An additional benefit of process intensity is its impact on agency.
Rather than chasing the impossible ideal of complete realism, it is better to aim at the centre of the spectrum between realism and gamism. Hitting that elusive centre will be easier with stylised mechanics, but that isn’t enough. It will also require process intensity.
One of the most pervasive myths of immersion is that it requires realism. But a much more effective approach could be to aim for the centre of the spectrum between realism and gamism. What would the centre look like? What are stylised mechanics and how are they immersive?