February Roundup

I’ve been staring at a blank flashing cursor for the past five minutes. I have no idea what to write. Luckily lots of other people knew what to write, so I can just describe their work instead. It’s Blogs of the Round Table!

February’s theme was Reflecting Reality:

“Fantasy or reality? Simulation or silliness? There’s a place in gaming for both documentary and drama, fact and fiction.

We hear of games becoming ever more ‘realistic’, but maybe they’re just becoming ? Which is a more desirable style for games to adopt? Which tells us more about the world? Which do you prefer?”

Nate Paolasso, who really needs a better online handle than “imtheman2013”, argues that the closer video games get to reality, the more we can understand ourselves. More than settling into uncanny valleys, games need more emotional realism too. I guess that’s more a problem of writing than technology; are you listening, David Cage?

Jed Revita thinks realism in gaming is a lie, and what games should really strive for is verisimilitude i.e. believability. It’s a good point which touches on why I named the topic ‘Reflecting Reality’: a reflection can never be real by definition, but it can certainly be warped and misleading.

Nick Degens sees realism as an artificial carrot on a stick: the connections we made to game characters from the 16-bit era were no less than those of today, and maybe more depending on whether you were an adult, child or unfertilised egg at the time. Could the pursuit of realism act as a barrier to making those connections, where our mind used to so readily fill in the gaps?

Psepho wrote a blog, deleted it, then wrote another one and this is a link to that second blog. He compares the death of Vincent in Pulp Fiction (err… spoiler warning, I guess) to the violence of Hotline Miami and how these two works offer a more authentic portrayal of real-world violence through their immediacy and irrevocability. I didn’t get a chance to read the mysterious first blog, but the second one is well worth reading.

Nate Andrews throws a curve ball with a discussion of Rock Band’s living dolls and the realism of avatars. Here, characters are an idealised version of ourselves: we can add ‘fat’ that doesn’t fatten, much like Xbox Live avatars and Miis where the closest you get to a ‘realistic’ depiction is shading the bags under your eyes.

John Brindle wants to dismantle the holodeck, writing that game spaces are actual places: more than representations of reality, they are real in their own right. This reminds me of a discussion in a Split Screen podcast we haven’t released yet, and when I made up the word ‘digic’ to illustrate that even the most realistic of games are always digital fictions. I was making a crap joke as well – this is a BoRT roundup after all – but I wonder if John’s declaration to smash the reality facsimile engine throws the baby out with the beautifully-rendered bathwater.

Shane Liesegang, a game designer with Bethesda Studios, talks about the art of Skyrim and games as works of impressionism rather than realism, where design is painted in broad brush strokes. By the way Shane, Bethesda still owe me a cheque for my Skyrim review. (That was a joke.)

Zoya Street has provided an excerpt from their book Dreamcast Worlds about photorealism in Shenmue. Shenmue is one of the most extreme examples of digital realism, down to having the right weather from that period in 1986. Don’t forget to pre-order the book if you like that article!

Ansh Patel argues for the realism of feelings and experiences evoked by games, rather than their environments, as an area where games should focus. As the philosopher Morpheus once said, “the mind makes it real”, and I’m almost certain he was talking about videogames.

As my mouse cursor hovered over this roundup’s ‘Post’ button, Peter Shafer sent me a link to his look at the Uncanny Valley of gameplay. The author attached this description: “Some jackass said Deadly Premonition was better than Heavy Rain”. And you know what? I’m so sleepy I’m just going to leave it at that.

What’s the modern equivalent of “stop the presses!” “Edit the WordPress post!”, I guess. Joseph Miller has a detailed look at realities within games. I liked the section on ‘magic objects’: in Call of Duty only certain objects are interactive, while in Super Mario World more or less everything is interactive, which heightens its relative realism. Perhaps this explains why bugs can be infuriating, or even comical.

And… that’s it! That’s all we’ve got this month. Unless I missed out on another submission. I’ve already added five since this was first published, so that’s not out of the question.

Don’t forget to add the BoRT Linkomatic 5000 to your blog. Just embed the following code on your blog’s page:

<iframe type=“text/html” width=“600” height=“20” src=“http://www.tinysubversions.com/bort.html?month=February13” frameborder=“0”></iframe>

And you’ll get this:

Now I’m off to immediately write March’s topic. See you there.