Video Games: Stylized Simulations Exploring the Tension Between the Fantastic and the Realistic Richard Nevins Entertainment & Games Prof. Doug Thomas December 01, 2008
A realistic game is enjoyable because it allows players "to do things that they normally would not be able to do." (Sherry, 2004) It may also employ the "implied authority" of visual fidelity. (Bogost, 2007) Gran Turismo 5 (SCEA, 2008)
Katamari Damacy (Namco, 2004) Fantasy games tap into the "superfluous" nature of play (Huizinga, 1950) in which the enjoyment of the game comes from engagement with the "artificial necessity" of the gamespace. (Wark, 2007)
Video Games: Entertainment and Enjoyment For a game to be successful, it should be entertaining -Vorderer et al (2004) hold that enjoyment is at the heart of entertainment Pre-requisites for entertainment - at least one is necessary: 1. The player must willingly suspend their disbelief -so that a game that is plainly not real can be perceived as such 2. The player must care about the characters in the game -they can feel empathy for the characters (para-social relationships) 3. The player must be transported; experience presence -similar concept to flow or immersion, where the game feels real 4. The player may have knowledge related to the game -To the extent that the game taps external influences -e.g. knowledge of rules of football for FIFA 2009 (EA, 2008).
Video Games: Entertainment and Enjoyment (Cont.) Three Main Theories of Motivation (Vorderer et al, 2004) 1. Escapism : The player becomes immersed in the game and forgets, at least temporarily, their 'RL' problems. 2. Mood Regulation: The player seeks to amplify or alter their mood through their selection of a relevant game title. 3. Achievement : The player gains pleasure and builds self-esteem through successful completion of the challenges and goals presented by the game .
Reality <=======> Fantasy: A Continuum If we think of video games as existing on a continuum from Reality to Fantasy, we can look to genres like sports games to provide examples illustrating the range of the continuum. -Madden NFL 09: Realistic simulation -Blitz: The League II: Fantastic representation Madden NFL 09 (EA, 2008) Blitz: The League II (Midway, 2008)
Simulation <=======> Fantasy: A Continuum NFL Head Coach 09 (EA, 2008) In case of American Football games, both are simulating the actual sport. Madden NFL 09 makes various efforts to be more realistic (more choices, more variables, more difficulty, potentially more sense of accomplishment). Blitz: The League II engages in "simplification and stylization" (Juul, 2005) to immerse the player in the fantastical narratives of the life of professional football players. Where does NFL Head Coach 09 fall in relation to the previous two on the Realism <=====> Fantasy continuum?
Complicating the Continuum: Delineating Simulation TIE Fighter (LucasArts, 1994) Super R-Type (Irem, 1991) Die By the Sword (Interplay, 1998) Bushido Blade (Squaresoft, 1997)
Narrative Flow and Fantasy: Games as Stories Many games emphasize the story and characters over the gameplay per se. Clockwise from bottom left: The 7th Guest (Virgin Games, 1993). I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream (Cyberdreams 1995). Leisure Suit Larry: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards (Sierra On-Line, 1987).
Realism <=======> Fantasy: A Continuum Some Thoughts: 1. Both realism and fantasy can lead to feelings of presence. -Presence is strongly associated with enjoyment 2. Player attributes must be taken into account - More skilled or practiced players may prefer more realistic simulations because they yield greater satisfaction. -Conversely, more casual gamers may prefer fantasy games due to their lower barriers to entry and highly immersive qualities. 3. Feelings of achievement are central to gamer motivations -Para-social relations are common in story-rich fantasy games -Escapism can be achieved on both ends of the spectrum
Simulation <=======> Fantasy: A Continuum Consider the Controller Input: A Trend Towards Realism
Evolution of the Nintendo Home Console Controller NES (1985) SNES (1991) N64 (1996) Gamecube (2001) Wii (2006) After sprouting extra buttons and legs, the Nintendo controller has returned to its slim, spare profile while adding wireless connectivity, an accelorometer and internal speakers. There's also a handy strap to prevent you from throwing the Wiimote through your TV during a frantic round of Wii Boxing.
Immersive Qualities of Controllers In the arcade shooting game Silent Scope (Konami, 2000) the sensation of being a sniper is heightened by the use of the facsimile rifle with sniper scope Nintendo's Rumble Pak introduced "force feedback" capability to console games, where events in the game world can trigger a haptic response by the controller, further immersing the player in the game. Lost World: Jurassic Park (Sega, 1997) was a fully immersive rail-shooter arcade cabinet that enveloped the player in visual, audio and force-feedback stimuli.
The Controller: Some Thoughts 1. This is an area undergoing much innovation at the moment. -Tendency towards greater realism versus abstract buttons -Versatile Wiimote and its many attachments -Rock Band (EA, 2007) musical instruments 2. Judging from its presence on the Wiimote and other modern controllers, the D-Pad is not likely to go away, even if less used. 3. Voice commands will become more common in one player games. -Already much used in multi-player FPS' and MMOs -Nintendogs (Nintendo, 2005) supports player voice inputs 4. Other non-traditional inputs will become common in certain kinds of in-depth gameplay. -Majestic (EA, 2001) interacted with players by phone and fax -Alternate Reality Games use everyday ICT's to play the game -So-called PMOG's grant players points for everyday actions
Final Thoughts If enjoyment is at the heart of entertainment, and immersion and flow facilitate enjoyment, then immersive games will continue to be compelling sources of entertainment. -Both realistic and fantastic games can be immersive Players can make empathetic para-social connections with game characters in both simulated and stylized games, however history suggests we prefer fantasy characters. -In video games this is complex, as the majority of characters are fictional Game play itself appears to be becoming much less abstract, with physical and/or verbal action being used as inputs. -This appears to be in line with a general virtualization of human activity
Works Cited: Bogost, I. "Persuasive Games". Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 2007. Huizinga, J. "Homo Ludens". Boston: Beacon Press. 1950. Juul, J. "Half-Real". Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 2005. Vorderer, P., Klimmt, C. and Ritterfeld, U. "Enjoyment: At the Heart of Media Entertainment". Communication Theory 14(4). pps. 388-408. Wark, M. "Gamer Theory". Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 2007. Games Cited: Paperboy (Atari, 1986) Leisure Suit Larry: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards (Sierra On-Line, 1987) Super Mario Bros. 2 (Nintendo, 1988) Super R-Type (Irem, 1991) The 7th Guest (Virgin Games, 1993) TIE Fighter (LucasArts 1994) I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (Cyberdreams, 1995) Bushido Blade (Squaresoft, 1997) The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Sega, 1997) Die By the Sword (Interplay, 1998) San Francisco Rush 2049 (Midway, 2000) Silent Scope (Konami, 2000) Majestic (EA, 2001) Katamari Damacy (Namco, 2004) Nintendogs (Nintendo, 2005) Rock Band (EA, 2007) Blitz: The League II (Midway, 2008) FIFA 2009 (EA, 2008) Gran Turismo 5 (SCEA, 2008) Madden NFL 09 (EA, 2008) NFL Head Coach 09 (EA, 2008)