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Do we need to be drawn into our games, or can we just play and enjoy? That's the question pondered by commenter RAMeyer19 in today's installment of Speak-Up on Kotaku.
Why in video games is "immersion" so often quoted as an important factor that a game has or lacks? Can I not love playing Pac-Man without needing to feel that I am Pac-Man?
Honestly, Half-Life 2, often cited as the peak of immersion in modern games, more often than not had me testing boundaries as opposed to feeling immersed. How come I can smash some things with a crow bar and they'll break, but not others? Why can't I shoot supporting character Alyx in the face but I can shoot and kill a mutated monster? If Valve was trying to make the player feel a part of the Half-Life universe through their rigidly first-person design how come I am so constantly questioning the rules and limits of what I can do, only to be constantly reminded that I am indeed, only playing as Gordon Freeman who can single-handedly save humanity from an alien race, but can't kill one measly old scientist with an assault rifle?
I think this is a big question that's important to address in modern game culture. Francois Laramée said, "All forms of entertainment strive to create suspension of disbelief, a state in which the player's mind forgets that it is being subjected to entertainment and instead accepts what it perceives as reality." According to this standard, one would assume that a piece of entertainment would do everything in its power to reach this goal. But look at how effective games like Metal Gear Solid are when they break the fourth wall.
Maybe it's because interesting meta-communicative moments, like those in Metal Gear, are more important to meaningful gameplay than "immersion" in the classical narrative sense. To me at least, applying Laramée's theory of immersion to games implies a false sense of simplicity on the medium as a whole.
I think we should look beyond "immersion," the term that's become such an industry buzz-word, and try to focus on the more subtle complexities that make a game truly interesting.
And yeah, sorry for the long post, but if you made it this far I'd love to hear what you think.
About Speak-Up on Kotaku: Our readers have a lot to say, and sometimes what they have to say has nothing to do with the stories we run. That's why we have that little box on the front page of Kotaku. You know, the one with "Got something to say?" written in it? That's the place to post anecdotes, photos, game tips and hints, and anything you want to share with Kotaku at large. Just make sure to include #speakup in your comment so we can find it. Every weekday we'll pull one of the best #speakup posts we can find and highlight it here.
The hilarious, universally acclaimed "Meet the Team" shorts for Team Fortress 2 are more than fan service or game promotion. Valve founder Gabe Newell says they're experiments in movie-making, because the studio would prefer to do a Half-Life movie itself.
Speaking to PC Gamer, Newell says Hollywood bombarded Valve with story pitches for a Half-Life movie, not long after the first game shipped in 1998. "Their stories were just so bad. I mean, brutally, the worst," Newell said. "Not understanding what made the game a good game, or what made the property an interesting thing for people to be a fan of."
Newell said the team reached a consensus to not sign a movie deal, because the only way it would be don right was if it made the film itself. "And I was like, ‘Make it ourselves? Well that's impossible,'" Newell said. "But the Team Fortress 2 thing, the Meet The Team shorts, is us trying to explore that."
It's a leap from animated, comedic shorts to a feature-length science-fiction drama, so at this rate, it's more likely that Half-Life: The Movie doesn't get made. But good on Newell and company for staying committed to seeing something done right, if it's done at all.
"As a [World of Warcraft] player, I would much rather that the WoW team made the movie, right?" Newell said. "I like Sam Raimi, I've been a fan ever since Evil Dead came out, but I would rather see Blizzard making the movie. We think that customers are like, ‘OK, we're kind of sick and tired of the way you guys are slicing and dicing the experience of being a fan of Harry Potter, or Half-Life, or The Incredibles, and you need to fix it.' And the people that fix it will be rewarded, and the people that don't will be on the rubbish heap of history, or whatever the phrase is."
Hey, it's another Disney attraction recreated in Half-Life 2! Last time it was the Tower of Terror, this time it's the sadly now-closed Adventurer's Club at Disney World.
Video games as a virtual archive for shuttered theme park rides (or, in this case, nightclubs). It's not the most expected role for the medium, but I have to say, it's definitely one of the most charming. Especially since the interior is so painstakingly depicted. There's love and history at work here, and those two together can do wonderful things.
[via Boing Boing]
Wolf-Shadow77 has been doing these little Half-Life cartoons for a few years now, but only recently have they really hit their stride, showing Gordon Freeman's universe in a way we're not exactly accustomed to seeing it.
The short animations use actual in-game sound clips, but then throw up visuals that upon first viewing, don't exactly match. By the time you're done, though, you couldn't imagine Half-Life looking any other way.
Totally subjective question, of course, but movie mag Empire decided to try and answer anyway, its writers nutting out who they thought were the greatest video game characters of all time. The winner? It wasn't Mario.
It wasn't Lara Croft, either. Or Master Chief. Or Link, or Snake, or even Mai Shiranui.
No, the winner in a surprisingly tasteful - and thus highly enjoyable - contest was Half-Life's Gordon Freeman. I say surprisingly because Shodan, the terrifying villain from System Shock 2, came in third, while Planescape Torment's "Nameless One" was fourth. Those are straight out of Awesome Stadium's left field.
The Empire staff compiled a list of 50, and you can read the results at the link below. Sadly, the cantankerous old "WANT SOME RYE" guy from Return to Zork didn't make the cut.
The 50 Greatest Video Game Characters [Empire]
I raised this in a recent night note, but since I got so many interesting responses, I figured I'd throw it out to the masses: is there anything in real life that scares you so much it affects your gaming?
For me, it's underwater monsters. Mostly when it comes to games, that means sharks, but really, it can be anything that comes at you, unseen, from underwater. That's the catch: if the game is set entirely underwater, I'm fine, but if it's set mostly on land, and it drops you in water only briefly and then something's coming to get you, I go to pieces.
I don't mean it in a way that developers will think they're doing a good job in provoking an emotional response from me. I mean it in a way that I will try and cheat or otherwise break a game to get out of/past those sequences. It's not a challenge. It's a total nothankyou.jpg.
Silly, I know! Irrational, even. But hey, that's what fears and phobias are.
This makes me wonder how many of you are also missing out on sections of games, or skipping games entirely, based on a real-world phobia, rather than a virtual world preference.
Some of you mentioned a fear of heights, which would be a problem for any game with a sense of verticality. Mirror's Edge must be a killer. But what else is there? Was anyone afraid of the dark so much they couldn't play Doom 3 (or, for that matter, won't play the almost perpetually-dark Alan Wake)? Or so afraid of spiders they couldn't play Ocarina of Time?
It's also OK to say you're terrified of Fallout 3's beards. I am too.
Valve sent word five minutes ago that the public release of Steam for the Mac will be on May 12. No other details were included in the statement.
Originally due for release sometime in April, there was, of course, less than two days left to make that deadline. Valve gave no reason for the delay.
Steam for the Mac will bring with it Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike, Portal and the Half-Life series.