Sunday, June 17, 2012

Reality Makes all the Difference in your Worlds

 All gamers like to suspend reality to some extent while playing games.  This suspension of   disbelief brings the entertainment value to the players.  That's why we say 'do you want to PLAY a game?'  It's a type of play to be sure, but you don't need me to tell you that.  However, as we get older, we need to move away from the complete suspension of belief for our entertainment.  Wile E Coyote is still funny for many of us, but reality (typically gravity in his case) kicks in at just the right time.  Like any good movie, you can't completely suspend reality otherwise it becomes a bit absurd and boring.  This applies to any entertainment, especially games.

Back when I was a kid...I couldn't have been more than 10 years old... I remember playing a board game with some friends.  I don't recall the name of the game, but I do know they were teaching me the rules as we went on.  I became so frustrated with the game that I never played again because the devices in the game had nothing to do with the game itself.  The devices I speak of were:  elbows on the table caused you to be penalized, rolling dice with your left hand rather than your right caused you to be penalized, scooting your chair during the game caused you to lose your turn.  There was literally a booklet of ridiculous and unrelated rules that frustrate me to this day.  (Yes, I am still receiving therapy from that game).  The reason I bring this up (besides being therapeutic) is that games need to be tie relevant things together in order for it to make enough sense to be fun while keeping the entertainment value going.  Said another way, don't have irrelevant things impact the playing of the game.  It becomes 'noise', and noise is often annoying.

If noise is annoying, then what is music? we are getting to the heart of it!  Making music is choreographed noise.  I mean really, who enjoys the sound of symbols all by themselves?  But, bring them into a larger orchestra, and they sound great if played at the right times.  The same is true with orchestrating reality and the suspension of reality in a game.  The cartoonist can suspend gravity for a certain amount of time, but if it was suspended all of the time, then Wile E Coyote would never make his perfect dirt plumes when hit hits the canyon floor.  A good game...any type of game...has a balance of reality and suspension of reality.

Let me give you what I think is a good fact, now that I'm thinking of it, I might apply it to a future game!  (I call dibs!!).   Imagine a miniature or RPG scenario where a group of terrorists sneak into another country, set up their secret base, secretly detonate a nuclear bomb and design chemical weapons, in order to end the world to set up their own on their own rules.  OK, it's a little far fetched, I know.  Some people might play a scenario or two but they really need to put the reality check far back in their brain.  However, let's bring some reality to it and it would not only allow that reality check to come a bit more forward.  Let's place a real name to this terrorist group and call them the about the "Aum Shinrikyo"?  Let's timebox this for reality sake into a period we've all lived.  Let's say the mid-1990's or even today., let's pick a location.  Certainly can't be any place well populated or so extreme...having it as a moon base would be suspending reality too far.  How about the unpopulated areas of Australia...the deep outback.  Put a specific name to the place...something Australian sounding like "Banjawarn Station" in the Great Victoria Desert.  There.   Now you've just given enough reality to add spice to the scenario(s).   What would make it really, REALLY interesting?  Well, basing it on true events would certainly make it fun, but we'd need to change this story line a bit....or would we?  What if the players were given newspaper articles or a story synopsis of real, true to life, events and they then had to disengage reality only for their role on the event.  Would knowing that the above events really happened make the scenario more fun and interesting?  I can say first hand that it makes all the difference in the world.  Do some research on the Aum wil quickly remember who they are.  You will also find some incredibly interesting, and little known facts about this Japanese terrorist group activities such as them having a 1/2 million acres of property in the Great Victoria Desert of Australia, them mining their own uranium, their partnership with former Soviet scientists, their detonation of the worlds first privately developed atomic bomb, and so much more.  Reality is the spice of life, and reality makes all the difference in your gaming worlds as well.

Modern news is one thing, but the applicability of this approach to gaming really adds credibility and more entertainment value to the games themselves.  Sure it takes a little more research for the game designer, but you will have a better end-result.  Good luck and I'd love to hear more about how you've used reality in your games and the responses of the players to it.  


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