Friday, February 07, 2014

Imagination and Fidelity

Yesterday I saw this video where game designers talk about graphics. Some of them have interesting things to say, some of them I agree with, but a lot of them are falling into the most common game design trap of all:

Nostalgia goggles!

Every time a game designer implies graphics leave less room for imagination, I punch a kitten.

The simple truth is that they played those games as kids. They had wild imaginings because they were kids.

It's the same today. My extended family is quite large, and there are always kids growing up. I get to see them play their games. It doesn't matter what level of graphics the game has, they always imagine new conversations, sounds, personalities, challenges.

The common opinion that graphical fidelity requires less imagination comes almost entirely from comparing the most memorable games of your youth to the least memorable games of your adulthood. Well, we can easily reverse that.

Compare Cool Spot to Gone Home, or Yo Noid to Dragon's Dogma. Obviously, the modern games have better graphics. But which inspires your imagination more?

Do you really use 'more' imagination when playing Yo Noid than when playing Gone Home? That's nonsense.

Obviously every game varies. Some games are rich in opportunities to imagine. Other games are paced or framed in a way where imagination isn't given much chance. It has nothing to do with graphics and everything to do with pacing. Everything to do with giving the players a rich foundation for imagination.

Please don't say low fidelity "requires more imagination". I'm starting to feel bad about this big stack of bruised kittens.


Keto said...

I disagree.

In this particular example, yes, nostalgia is clearly lacing all of their opinions(of this type). That said, there is something more here.

When you accept a certain level of graphics, you create a space of known aspects. If you cannot see details, those details cannot be bad or disappointing not to have.

When people speak of imagination, I imagine that they are often thinking of this effect. In my experience, it is relatively rare for people to talk about truly imagining things in these situations.

Instead, it is generally more of something between suspension if disbelief and imagination. Rather than imagining good music it is more 'pretending' the music is good, and if the music (in this example) does not at least hit a high enough bar to beat this, it is seen as relatively disappointing.

Craig Perko said...

To me, it seems like you're making up excuses as to why you liked certain games as a kid, but don't like the same kinds of games as an adult.