Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Immersion in Games: Are You Into It?

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 27 May 2014 12:00
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So last week, we discussed the subjectivity of beauty in art. That's right - we fucking roll high-brow around these parts. But we should be aware by now that all opinion is subjective. It might be possible to draw some kind of objective view on a created work by compiling every review and opinion ever passed upon it, and taking a percentage of positive versus negative reviews (making case-by-case judgment calls with the middle-ground opinions, if you take enough samples it'll all even out in the end).

So you end up with a conclusion that the artwork is, say, 38% good. But what use is that to someone who did enjoy the work? Are you going to tell them their opinion is wrong? All you can tell them is that more people disagree with them than agree, but majority vote has never decided objective truth, like the majority vote that decided the Liberal National Party were the best people to be running Australia.

I think there's a lot of critically panned art that can miraculously become acclaimed by leaving it unchanged but transferring it to a different time period or context, or by viewing it from a different mindset. There are innumerable Hollywood films, like Amazing Spider-Man 2 (just to pick an example out of the air), that will do a hell of a lot better in foreign markets thanks to the comfortable padding of cultural distance, and audiences that aren't yet completely jaded to big flashy spectacle. Indeed, it wasn't a one hundred percent critically derided film. Even the video game had its supporters, although that might have had more to do with the comfortable padding of brain distance.

In many ways, the issue of subjectivity vs. objectivity in games journalism is one that leaves me fairly torn. Probably because of the video game's status as a thing of both art and function, function that can easily break down. I try to take the position that my negative opinions shouldn't bother you if you yourself liked my target of derision, unless you're lying to yourself and I'm speaking to feelings you try to suppress, neither should your positive opinions bother me. But at the same time, I can't help but feel that maybe there is such a thing as a wrong opinion.

Because I have a very clear idea of the difference between good art and bad art. Oh, some people will prefer X over Y and even bad art can make for an entertaining evening with some alcohol and a few jolly wags with whom one can riff. But at the end of the day, what side of the quality line a piece of art falls on all comes down to immersion.

Immersion is a word that has been getting a pretty bad reputation on the Internet. Like the humble fedora (which as any man of class can tell you, should never be worn with short trousers), it's been tainted by association. I've often heard the phrase "MY IMMERSION" (capitals necessary) being used to mock neckbeard shut-ins raging at a game's negative qualities. The unspoken implication often being that they don't actually have a valid reason for disliking the work and are simply being contrary for the sake of attention or cathartic anger. But immersion is the most vital factor in the experience of a game or any other artistic work, one that all else boils down to, and it is very easily broken.

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