Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Human Imagination as the Magic Missing from Major Video Games

Today's post will be a quickie as I talk about some of my thoughts that have led to me formulating an interesting game design concept.

There is an aspect to literature that I believe to be the most beautiful of all. And it is this; each reader develops in their mind their own picture of the fiction, of the characters and universe described. Mere words craft in to being a vivid and personal vision. Every person will imagine a character in their own unique way, based upon the connotations they associate with certain words and their personal experiences with similar imagery. It is magical in the same sense that dreams are magical.

So recently my thoughts have been directed towards bringing this same magic to games and it very quickly (as in 5 seconds quickly) came to me that this very magic had been in use for games since the beginning of history. Particularly, the human imagination had been used in five specific ways:

1. Physical games and board games have always been using imagination to turn a playground's sand into lava and the king piece of a chess board into a living figure of royalty.

2. Early text adventure computer games and their modern incarnation, interactive fiction, use words too draw images in the same way as literature.

3. Video games found on simple hardware capable of only low resolution graphics (ex. Atari 2600) required the player to look at 14 pixels and say, "Hey look! That's ET."

4. Mods for video games will use the assets of the parent game to represent entirely different items or objects. Usually this is done when the mod developer doesn't have the resources to create their own assets to import into the game or when they can't import their own resources into the game. For instance, look at how much of the more scripted community content for Garry's Mod uses default Half-Life 2 assets to represent other objects which they are not.

5. Finally, I'll end with the method I currently have an interest in (since, from what I have seen, it is the least used of all these approaches to evoking emotion); audio only games. Currently there are only two deeply communicative output types that video games utilize; the screen and the speakers (yes, rumble and smell-a-vision also exist, but do not have the fidelity of the two major output methods). I imagine these games relating to radio dramas in much the same way as the text adventures relate to books. I personally only know of two games that use this concept, so I have an interest in developing it further, despite the fact that it might not seem all that progressive.

(The title might seem misleading, but it makes clear very briefly a point I would like to get across.)

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