vaecrius: The infamous cartoon of Darwin's head on a chimp's body, superimposed with a MSPainted Nazi armband. (are you a monkey)
(This had been in my notes backlog for a while - might as well post it now since it also relates to the whole writing-about-stories kick I've been on (or rather Fr. Stephen's been on and I'm just following him).)

Given a sufficiently large number of people, whenever theories about what makes a good game are discussed, you're sure to run into some ignorant hack who will proudly declare, "I know! A game is good because it is Fun!" and act like he's found some perfect insight that would blow away everything. It shows a contempt not even worthy of being called obscurantist, but it does invite a certain reality check: your theory of what makes a game good must address the preferences of those who are wholly ignorant of your theory, or what you are doing is groundless and pretentious (in the sense of pretending to things it lacks the authority for).

Between the Skinner box approach, the feminist critiques and my own buying/modding habits, I think I've boiled down to the following that a game must do:
  1. Engage
  2. Emulate
  3. Edify
If your game does all three, and they do them in a way that does not offend the player, that player would probably think your game is "fun" on some level.

Engagement is simple enough: the game must provide some kind of stimulus-response-"reward" interaction with the player's input that gets dopamine running. It does not matter if any pleasure is involved (though pleasure may be necessary to get the player started): rage, self-righteous zeal and simple "need" to keep going are all sufficient.

Emulation generally takes the lion's share of the work and is the most likely one to be noticed at the game-buying stage. This may include the game's world-setting and story, as the word may suggest, but participation in a fictional world is not necessary. Emulation may also include the social context of the intended player: whether in collaboration or competition, with friends or strangers, in person or online, whether the game should be a "safe space" for any given identity group. In other words, it is everything in a given game that draws the player into participating in a given narrative or social arena, be it the study of a living ecosystem, glory in combat, or (ostensibly) happy competition with family and friends at a gathering.

Edification has seen a resurgence in discussion in recent years, mostly for negative reasons. Whether any explicit thought is put into it, an activity that sets up a behavioural reward system within the context of getting a reader to participate in a specific narrative of human conduct by definition must be drilling some moral or ethical message into that reader's mind, in a way that is much more easy to implicitly accept - or, rather, much more onerous and unrewarding not to accept ("win the game" as opposed to "type in some cheat codes and fuck around for hours in places the player was never meant to go") - than in a book ("read the book" as opposed to "read the book and scribble long notes in the margins and between the lines with a fine red pen detailing every reason why you think the author is full of shit").

As far as appeal and getting people to play goes, I suppose edification can be subsumed into emulation. Or perhaps emulation is too broad to be a useful category and edification too narrow. I will revise once I get another alliterating trio.
vaecrius: A round squishy plush lobster bursts out of the blue. (cock lobster)
In which someone plays Hideous Destructor without having read the manual.

In which two of the new generation play Doom for the first time.
vaecrius: A stylized navy blue anarchy sign juxtaposed with a pixellated chaos symbol made to resemble a snowflake. (anarchy and chaos)
[2016-01-06 Before reading this it might be better to read Jack Monahan's "refrigerator box" essay which is much more informative.]

From the sighting and aiming discussion here a few things occur to me:

Iconic representation

Icons and all the talk about making present, etc. never made any sense to me until I saw some comment about someone watching a "cradle" Orthodox believer pray to one, and the whole exchange(!) looked like they were having a conversation with a person standing before them. At once it all clicked: the skewed perspectives of various objects, far from being a matter of failing at mere "representation", were required for the full presentation to the viewer to address specific requirements for interacting with what was portrayed on the 2-dimensional space. Things are deliberately moved aside or extended or not foreshortened, or viewed from a different angle than something right next to it, to reveal that which if you were physically there you'd be able to see with no more than a very simple, unconscious movement - the top of a book being opened, the objects on the surface of a table, the hand of a person holding a heavy object. The entire image - and each portion thereof - is made not to reproduce the mechanical light-impression of the physical presence, but as an interface.

It also explains why I've always preferred Doom and Quake's centered guns over the angled views of later FPSes: while more "realistic" in the sense that the side of the gun would be a closer approximation to what you'd see from either eye while the weapon was pressed to your shoulder but before you started looking down the sights, it permanently blocks your view of whatever is below you to your right - something you would be able to see in meatspace with minimal effort by as little as a slight turn of the head, an action that probably should not deserve its own keybind.

As applied to my so-called "realism" Doom mod, unlike most shooters with such aspirations I keep the crosshair rather than sights - which crosshairs, as crude approximations of sight pictures, only (but always and automatically) appear wherever looking down the sights would be an option in another game. The weapon sprite itself is kept as out of the way as would remain faithful to the original aesthetic. No more than movement of the eyes, or at most a slight turn of your avatar's direction to move either sprite or crosshair out of the way, is required to look around. The ultimate result is a double view of your weapon with a large gap in between that you would never see in real life, but which allows the viewer to extract information with no more effort or artifice than if the object had been physically present in the viewer's own equivalent space.

The "drone effect"

Which takes us to the next great hazard in "realistic" first-person shooting. You have a mouse and keyboard. This gets rambly fast. )

I know this

if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.


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