215: The Truthiness of Simulation

The Truthiness of Simulation

What makes game worlds so compelling? Is it their ever growing realism, or is it something else? Robert Buerkle investigates how games draw us in to their uniquely truthy reality.

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I think "truthiness" is something that all games strive for. In my opinion, it's what help makes a game become successful. In most cases, people know that the games they're playing aren't real, but we still want it to be slightly "realistic" no matter what that is, even if there's spells and fairies and what-not involved. Fable was a good example here. There's some level of truthiness to be found in the fact that I had to work what some would consider a part-time job at the weaponsmith to earn a meager amount of money early off in the game.

My rather sad and lonely friends did fantasise about a completely realistic game, weather and damage effects etc. I agree with the article in that it would be Hell. But I did get annoyed when I'd strafe into an immovable wall of bush in CoD 5, the invisible wall shattered my immersion into the Pacific jungle, and ruined my experience. Realism is fine, but breaking the rules of your own realism is worse.

The game has to be what I call "believable", with its own internal logic and rules. Otherwise you can't immerse yourself in the virtual world or enjoy the game. The game world has to be a virtual place that it makes sense to be in. Of course time and space are compressed, athere have to short, simpler equivalents for what you'd do in the "real" world, and you have to pick what people are going to do - gameplay. I don't think of it as being "realistic", exactly, I think of it as making sense in the context of the game. As an example, I'm not a fan of permadeath in games, when I'm playing a character -- just let me continue. In the context of most MMORPGS, not having your charater die for good - this works. I'm also fond of being a hero - casting spells, all that - not what I would call "realistic", but in the context of the world, it works.

The idea of versimilitude, truthiness or whatever you'd like to call it is immensly important for immersion in a game.

This immersion is not based around graphics, as my experience (and that of others)of spending hours with old RPGs shows.

The illusion fails when the logic of the world collapses, and this can hinge on the smallest of details. For me, this can be the lack of available dialogue options, or perhaps my perfectly logical idea to get past a puzzle is not recognised by the game.

Truthiness in games is a nice and inevitable direction, but sometimes it is good to throw many of the rules that form reality out the window, and play with chaos in a game. Everybody can try to make a GTA clone, but when has someone thought to make a Matrix clone, or the Spaghetti Western fps with neverending bullets until a random time that may just give your opponent the dramatic opportunity.
As long as games stay at the barrier of truthiness and not go further into reality, then things will be fine.

I would argue that there is a disconnect between verisimilitude and "simulations". Braid for instance "feels real" because it's internally consistent in how its time-reversal mechanics work (even in the later levels when

how things react to the flow of time is consistent), but I would be hard pressed to call it a simulation of anything.

I m ust agree that games become silly when they throw their own basics out of the window, which happens when you can't do things that would many other people invent in such situations or that would be logically possible at given moment. most common example is that almost no shooter allows me to shoot guns out of enemies' hands(if it wasn't in GTA 4, I wouldn't remember which game has it). it's also silly(and common among games) that some actions require exact distance from the target to succeed.

I agree with what has been said here (a game needs to make sense only within its own established laws, truthiness/verisimilitude is the key to artistic simulation, etc.), so instead I'll just say "Yay, Stephen Colbert reference!"

I read in some Reader's Digest issue that creating a word that has been accepted by Merriam-Webster (or some big-wig English dictionary company) is, to Stephen Colbert, like having a six-pack (considering his wife is an English teacher).

Well, there went Colbert's ego again...

Now, I'm off to get a big honkin' game of monopoly going. Just to remember a good old fashioned simulator.

I think this is a concept that plagued Spore to some degree; the scope of the game's concept was simply too huge to comprehend. To simulate the creation and evolution of an entire species from a single celled organism to a space-faring race of technologically advanced beings is a fantastic and whimsical endeavour to say the least, and yet that was what was promised.

Obviously the course of several million years of evolution had to somehow be squashed unceremoniously into 30+ hours of real world gameplay, and this effectively resulted in several disjointed minigames that tried desperately to mimic several other popular games, while at the same time offer a (slightly stylised) depiction of real world mechanics, biology and society.

The very idea of somehow simulating the advancement of an entire species simply isn't plausible; at least, not until the "civilisation" stage. The rest of the game is crippled by it's own scope. The thought of simulating the evolution of an entire species using gameplay mechanics instead of _actual accepted evolutionary fact_ (if I kill this creature, I can slap its mouth on everyone in my species? Darwin would be rolling in his grave). The truth needs to give way to gameplay sometimes, but I doubt we're ready for even a stylised simulation of evolution on Spore's scale yet.

I never got to the space stage, by the way. I wanted to create a peaceful, religious (peaceful, ha) race, 'cause I'm soppy that way, but I found the civilisation stage was balanced too much in favour of the military and economic races, and I was bored by that point anyway.

Andronicus:
I never got to the space stage, by the way. I wanted to create a peaceful, religious (peaceful, ha) race, 'cause I'm soppy that way, but I found the civilisation stage was balanced too much in favour of the military and economic races, and I was bored by that point anyway.

My first Spore species was peaceful (green all the way); it was easy. (I've since made an all-red and an all-blue species; of all of them the all-blue was the hardest and the all-green the easiest.)

To agree with most of the other posters here and Robert Buerkle a game has to have enough realism to keep the gamer involved while still including things that wouldn't be there or removing the unfavorable to keep the gamer interested.

For most recent First Person Shooters (to quote yahtzee in a way) your character has the abilities of a combination of man and fridge. When you see a single "regular" trooper wandering into an enemy outpost taking 40 rounds in the first 5 seconds and still managing to eliminate all of the enemies within stone throwing distance. This is something that would never happen in real life, but for a video game it works because most people who play those games find that it is quite rewarding.

the truthy element of this scenario is the hero concept, that one man (or woman) can do great things. But what completes this Truthy scenario is that nobody can take that many bullets without being injured, dead, or dying. The reason that this appeals to us is because we would all like to be the great hero who saves everybody. but that only works when there is truthiness or an extremely exceptional person.

I remember reading a book about a fake game, where you live the life of a man. That's it.
You go from childbirth to death, and you spend every single minute of it playing him.
No pauses, no saves. In fact, pressing the start button will only let you pause for 10 seconds until it just goes back in.
And from what I read, it would take two years total to play through it, without stopping for ANYTHING.
That is probably the ultimate life simulator.

Brilliant reading, this is the stuff I come to the escapist for.

I never looked at fable as a fairy tale before...
I always thought it was just a series of crappy games. (I still think that, though)

This kind of helps to put them in a different light for me. Not that I'll actually go out and play them, god no. That's what I've got Skyrim for now.

- It's a fairy-tale about a knight cursed with the blood of a dragon who attempts to find his place in the world by saving the land from the evil dragons that plague it. You even get to jump and shout at annoying people. Killing them in the process. Awesome.

Now if you really want an massive fantasy world that can boggle your mind, you should look into Dwarf Fortress.

Generating a world will fill it with random historical events involving anything from a cyclops slaughtering a village of humans, to a goblin warrior stealing a vase from a fortress, dying from an axe to his left pinky after which he bled to death and his silk socks were stolen from his corpse by a dog who then returns it to his owner who is flattered by it.

A small world with 250 years of history will usually yield around 15.000 historical people, and many more historical events. All of which are connected. It's awesome.

 

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