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The Player Is and Is Not the Character

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the i-agree-and-disagree dept.

Editorial 152

Jill Duffy writes "GameCareerGuide has posted an intellectual article about video games which argues there is no such thing as 'breaking the fourth wall' in games. Written by Matthew Weise, a lead game designer for the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, the article considers the complex relationship between video game players and characters. Weise says that, unlike in theater and film, video games don't ever really break the fourth wall, as it were, because in games, there is no wall. Players are always tethered to the technology, and the player is always just as much the main character as not the main character. Weise looks at both modern experimental games, like Mirror's Edge, as well as old classics, like Sonic the Hedgehog, to defend his point. He writes, 'Both avatars and the technological devices we use to control them are never simply in one reality. They are inherently liminal entities, contributing to a mindset that we, as players, exist in two realities at once. It's just as natural for a player to say, "I defeated that boss," as it is to say, "Snake defeated that boss," since Snake is and is not the player at the same time. It is likewise natural for a player to say, "I punched an enemy soldier," when in reality, she punched no one. All she did was press a button.'"

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Really.... (1, Informative)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#25895751)

video games don't ever really break the fourth wall, as it were, because in games, there is no wall.

Ummm... Yes there is. Play the Donkey Kong Country games for the SNES (and Donkey Kong Land for the Game Boy) and you will find many, many fourth-wall breaking comments.

Re:Really.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25895889)

It all started when our hyphen-happy protagonist, Jenifahr, woke up in a haunted thicket. It was the eighth time it had happened. Feeling abnormally frustrated, Jenifahr backhanded a gerbil, thinking it would make her feel better (but as usual, it did not). Before anyone could take off their pants, she realized that her beloved vagina was missing! Immediately she called her parole officer, Alyssa. Jenifahr had known Alyssa for (plus or minus) 153 years, the majority of which were erotic ones. Alyssa was unique. She was charismatic though sometimes a little... slutty. Jenifahr called her anyway, for the situation was urgent.

Alyssa picked up to a very angry Jenifahr. Alyssa calmly assured her that most disease-carrying chipmunks shudder before mating, yet legless puppies usually charismatically sigh *after* mating. She had no idea what that meant; she was only concerned with distracting Jenifahr. Why was Alyssa trying to distract Jenifahr? Because she had snuck out from Jenifahr's with the vagina only two days prior. It was a flamboyant little vagina... how could she resist?

It didn't take long before Jenifahr got back to the subject at hand: her vagina. Alyssa belched. Reluctantly, Alyssa invited her over, assuring her they'd find the vagina. Jenifahr grabbed her George Foreman grill and disembarked immediately. After hanging up the phone, Alyssa realized that she was in trouble. She had to find a place to hide the vagina and she had to do it randomly. She figured that if Jenifahr took the time machine, she had take at least four minutes before Jenifahr would get there. But if she took the DeLorean? Then Alyssa would be really screwed.

Before she could come up with any reasonable ideas, Alyssa was interrupted by eight ejaculating flying penises that were lured by her vagina. Alyssa yawned; 'Not again', she thought. Feeling relieved, she skillfully reached for her ripened avocado and thoughtfully attacked every last one of them. Apparently this was an adequate deterrent--the discouraged critters began to scurry back toward the haunted thicket, squealing with discontent. She exhaled with relief. That's when she heard the DeLorean rolling up. It was Jenifahr.

As she pulled up, she felt a sense of urgency. She had had to make an unscheduled stop at Egg Roll King to pick up a 12-pack of live hand grenades, so she knew she was running late. With a inept leap, Jenifahr was out of the DeLorean and went surreptitiously jaunting toward Alyssa's front door. Meanwhile inside, Alyssa was panicking. Not thinking, she tossed the vagina into a box of bananas and then slid the box behind her time machine. Alyssa was relieved but at least the vagina was concealed. The doorbell rang.

'Come in,' Alyssa erotically purred. With a careful push, Jenifahr opened the door. 'Sorry for being late, but I was being chased by some funny-smelling coke fiend in a neighborhood-terrorizing crotch rocket,' she lied. 'It's fine,' Alyssa assured her. Jenifahr took a seat ridiculously far from where Alyssa had hidden the vagina. Alyssa sighed trying unsuccessfully to hide her nervousness. 'Uhh, can I get you anything?' she blurted. But Jenifahr was distracted. A few freaknasty minutes later, Alyssa noticed a insensitive look on Jenifahr's face. Jenifahr slowly opened her mouth to speak.

'...What's that smell?'

Alyssa felt a stabbing pain in her ear when Jenifahr asked this. In a moment of disbelief, she realized that she had hidden the vagina right by her oscillating fan. 'Wh-what? I don't smell anything..!' A lie. A pestering look started to form on Jenifahr's face. She turned to notice a box that seemed clearly out of place. 'Th-th-those are just my grandma's ripened avocados from when she used to have pet disease-carrying chipmunks. She, uh...dropped 'em by here earlier'. Jenifahr nodded with fake acknowledgement...then, before Alyssa could react, Jenifahr thoughtfully lunged toward the box and opened it. The vagina was plainly in view.

Jenifahr stared at Alyssa for what what must've been nine millseconds. Suddenly cheered up by the Hannah Montana theme song, Alyssa groped earnestly in Jenifahr's direction, clearly desperate. Jenifahr grabbed the vagina and bolted for the door. It was locked. Alyssa let out a flamboyant chuckle. 'If only you hadn't been so protective of that thing, none of this would have happened, Jenifahr,' she rebuked. Alyssa always had been a little dimwitted, so Jenifahr knew that reconciliation was not an option; she needed to escape before Alyssa did something crazy, like... start chucking potatoes at her or something. Before anyone could take off their pants, she gripped her vagina tightly and made a dash toward the window, diving headlong through the glass panels.

Alyssa looked on, blankly. 'What the hell? That seemed excessive. The other door was open, you know.' Silence from Jenifahr. 'And to think, I varnished that window frame four days ago...it never ends!' Suddenly she felt a tinge of concern for Jenifahr. 'Oh. You ..okay?' Still silence. Alyssa walked over to the window and looked down. Jenifahr was gone.

Just yonder, Jenifahr was struggling to make her way through the imaginary desert behind Alyssa's place. Jenifahr had severely hurt her taint during the window incident, and was starting to lose strength. Another pack of feral flying penises suddenly appeared, having caught wind of the vagina. One by one they latched on to Jenifahr. Already weakened from her injury, Jenifahr yielded to the furry onslaught and collapsed. The last thing she saw before losing consciousness was a buzzing horde of flying penises running off with her vagina.

But then God came down with His ingenious smile and restored Jenifahr's vagina. Feeling stunned, God smote the Flying Peniss for their injustice. Then He got in His magic flying carpet and blasted away with the fortitude of one million Indonesian devil cats running from a teensy pack of spotted wolf hamsters. Jenifahr vomited with joy when she saw this. Her vagina was safe. It was a good thing, too, because in eleven minutes her favorite TV show, Dancing With the Stars, was going to come on (followed immediately by 'When legless puppies meet rusty razor blade'). Jenifahr was excited. And so, everyone except Alyssa and a few unborn fetus-toting long-haired sea monkeys lived blissfully happy, forever after.

Re:Really.... (5, Insightful)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896105)

It's all a bunch of pseudo psychobabble anyway. Plenty of games break the fourth wall, but as this poorly written nonsense says there IS no wall. Which is of course nonsense.

Unless the participant is actively acknowledged, that is a fourth wall.

Metal Gear Solid, Snake never looks out of the screen at you and engages you. I can think of plenty of games where the character you play does. Just like there's a fair few movies where a character breaks the fourth wall.

I mean really, what the hell is the point of the article? Writing for the sake of it offering no real insight or cogent, intelligent thought.

The more I think about it, the more I'm amazed that this made it to the front page. Clearly the key is writing an article that appears intelligent but really isn't is the key.

And I've now spent all this time commenting on an utterly worthless and pointless article that serves no purpose other than to give some random guys opinion. An opinion which is utterly ill-informed, ill-conceived, and totally irrelevant to anything.

Re:Really.... (1)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896285)

Metal Gear Solid, Snake never looks out of the screen at you and engages you. I can think of plenty of games where the character you play does. Just like there's a fair few movies where a character breaks the fourth wall.

He does in Twin Snakes, you know.

Re:Really.... (1)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896511)

I apologize profusely for not having played every single Metal Gear game ever.:)

Out of interest, is it a funny? Wasn't Twin Snakes the one that was sort of a remake of the original Metal Gear Solid? I really don't remember now.

Re:Really.... (2, Informative)

Hahnsoo (976162) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896999)

There are plenty of other places in many other Metal Gear games where the 4th wall is broken. Even in the first Metal Gear Solid, you had to get a codec code from the back of the actual physical CD case of the game. There was no way in-game to get this codec code to progress, and the characters within the game mention "It's on the back of your CD case" directly to the player. Another similar instance happens during the Psycho Mantis battle. Oh, and Twin Snakes IS the remake of the original Metal Gear Solid. You probably should have picked a better example, but your point is valid, however.

Re:Really.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25897455)

Metal Gear Solid, Snake never looks out of the screen at you and engages you. I can think of plenty of games where the character you play does.

Snake didn't, but Psycho Mantis does in 1 and 4. (i.e. Messing with your controllers, reading your Memory Card / HDD, talking about the return of Vibration abilities in the PS3's Dual Shock 3)

Just saying...

Snake, check the back of the CD case... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25898365)

Actually, the fourth wall is notably and clearly broken a couple of times in Metal Gear Solid. Once when Campbell tells you to look on the back of the CD case to find Meryl's codec frequency and once when he suggests that you use the player 2 controller so that Psycho Mantis can't read your mind.

There are many more sophisticated ways of breaking the fourth wall than "having a character look out at the screen and engage you". I think the point of the article in question is that the player is always actively engaged by the technology - it requires out input in a way that no other medium does.

And if you want to say that there is some fundamental difference between being told by the game to search the CD case for a code and being told by the game "you press A to fire - now kill these guys" then you are in a much stickier position.

Re:Really.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25896595)

Have you ever played Paper Mario for the Wii? They keep saying things like "Press A to..." followed by "I don't know what that means, but someone watching us might" I think that is more annoying than just saying "press A to ..."

Re:Really.... (1)

PurpleBob (63566) | more than 5 years ago | (#25897505)

Yep. There's also EarthBound which breaks the fourth wall as part of the plot. The dialogue in the game makes it entirely clear that you are not Ness, which this article would claim never happens.

I'm surprised that a game designer for GAMBIT would make such an easily-refutable statement. I'd say that the weaker thesis of the article -- that breaking the fourth wall doesn't actually harm gameplay -- is reasonable, on the other hand.

Re:Really.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25897899)

I didn't know what the term fourth wall meant, so here's a link :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_wall

Capitalization! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25895755)

capitalization is and is Not done Correctly in This title.

some are closer than others (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#25895781)

I have to say, I never considered Sonic to be me on the old Sega Genesis. In fact, I'd get in arguements with him like "why'd you just hit that spring?!" and "jump, damn it!" But it's actually possible via the default settings in Oblivion to never see your avatar while playing (not counting the first time setup). And while playing, you can pretty much go anywhere and do anything short of most environmental interaction like picking a flower or breaking a chunk off a building. You can run, jump, and hit basically anything and steal stuff with like 10 different techniques that you yourself made up adn the game makers perhaps never intended. I think the progress between the two plus new hardware inventions like haptics controllers will eventually make it so you honestly do think it's you. Actually with full VR or even a holodeck, it basically is you and everything else is fake.

Breaking The 4th Wall = Literary, Not Literally (1)

Nitroadict (1005509) | more than 5 years ago | (#25895789)

In terms of storyline, absolutely there is a sense of breaking the fourth wall. In terms of environment of the game, this article is correct, in terms of the relationship between the game & the player(s0, but depending on the games script, walls may or may not exist.

wait a minute! (4, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25895793)

Circular logic works because circular logic works because circular logic works because circular logic works because...

Re:wait a minute! (0, Offtopic)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896257)

1. Recursive logic works because of (goto 1)

Offtopic: My frontpage got stuck on Firehose? (0, Offtopic)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#25895845)

I just hit refresh and it flipped views. Tested on 3 browsers by two physical computers.

Anyone?

Re:Offtopic: My frontpage got stuck on Firehose? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25895873)

Yep... same here.

Re:Offtopic: My frontpage got stuck on Firehose? (1)

TypoNAM (695420) | more than 5 years ago | (#25895885)

I am getting the same thing. Is it just me or is slashdot slowly turning into a web 2.0 turd like sourceforge has become? It isn't anymore functional than static HTML (of which I prefer) and it actually puts me off. Shit is ending up in places where it doesn't belong like as you have pointed out the firehorse is now merged into my user page. :(

Re:Offtopic: My frontpage got stuck on Firehose? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896347)

They have to get us to do the editors' job somehow.

Re:Offtopic: My frontpage got stuck on Firehose? (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 5 years ago | (#25897867)

That's what I noticed too:
Slashdot is now pushing people into rating articles in a very annoying way. I guess GP is right about Slashdot becoming a "web 2.0 turd"

Re:Offtopic: My frontpage got stuck on Firehose? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25895903)

Yes, this transition has been one huge fuckup. Hopefully we will all learn a valuable lesson and not let these incompetents touch Slashcode ever again. Also, please kill Idle; it's embarrassing.

Re:idle (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25895983)

I don't think they can.
In a thread that brought out the Fibonacci series of UID's, it was hinted that idle came from higher up in the corporate mountaintops.

Re:idle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25896083)

Link or it didn't happen.

Re: idle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25896219)

lazy ac. find it yourself.

He's right (2, Funny)

zombietangelo (1394031) | more than 5 years ago | (#25895861)

Every time I play Tetris, I just... I can't distinguish between games and reality.

Re:He's right (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25895927)

Is that why you shove legos up your asshole?

Re:He's right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25897531)

Ugh... the version of tetris that you play must be just horrible. I'm so sorry for your loss :(

A rebuttal in (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25895863)

A common pet hate that shows there is a 4th wall in games is loading screens.

You know, those messages on screen while the game accesses the disk, explaining that the game is accessing the disk... please wait... *spins-CD-onscreen*

If it didn't annoy anyone it wouldn't be complained about so much, but I've read complaints about loading screens for over 20 years. Amiga Power magazine wrote an article about why it was a "heartbreakingly terrible idea". The Edge wrote a feature on stupid ideas and included it. C+VG complained about disk loading screens. The official playstation magazine wrote about it and mocked one game's animated loading screen as being "worthy of the CDTV. Yes, Amiga.". And Xboxlive reviews frequently complain about network loading screens that tell you you're playing a game.

Reviews frequently criticised games: "Firstly, it prints up "Loading Please Wait" in between each level reminding us that this is not a fantastic world in which we are an absorbed major player. THIS IS ONLY A COMPUTER GAME. Grr."

It seems like this is an excellent case in point to show that the 4th wall does exist in games. People do get lost in games and anything that ruins a carefully crafted mood is a bad idea. There's no excuse for it.

Re:A rebuttal in (2, Informative)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896039)

What would you rather have instead of loading screens?

Expect the devs to be such good engineers that they are not needed in the first place?

Have the game FREEZE while data gets loaded?

Hardware has it's limitations.

Re:A rebuttal in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25896217)

Play some recent Final Fantasy games on the PS2- most transitions between areas are smooth and rarely ever does it actually stop to load. I wish they had done that with Okami...
And Shenmue for that matter...

Re:A rebuttal in (0, Offtopic)

g0at (135364) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896251)

Hardware has it's limitations.

And grammar has it is limitations too!

Re:A rebuttal in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25896437)

The initial loading step is unavoidable, but it's often possible to completely eliminate loading screens during the game.

E.g. instead of making large, discrete levels which can barely fit into memory, you create many smaller zones, pre-emptively loading upcoming zones in the background while discarding the least-recently used zones.

The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time series don't have any noticeable loading screens (I suspect that they load map geometry during the cut-scenes; the spacing is about right). Ultima IX didn't have loading screens, and the occasional pauses were less than a second.

Re:A rebuttal in (1)

Walpurgiss (723989) | more than 5 years ago | (#25897147)

The 2 Metroid games for GC did this. Fairly well too.

Unless you rushed across a room to the next door, there'd be no wait between rooms. Sometimes if you made it to the door quickly, it would pause before opening. Just the door though, nothing else paused. I think that's a good example of preemptive loading.

The only things I'd really call loading screens were the elevators between areas in Metroid Prime, and the stupid light/dark warps in Echoes. Otherwise there weren't any in game load screens that I can remember.

An older example of (almost) doing this is Halflife, where there wasn't a separate screen between areas, but it did freeze for a sec and say Loading. It was close though.

Re:A rebuttal in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25898301)

Half-Life used to take probably half a minute to load on my PIII which was a pretty decent machine at the time (was my first PC, got it perhaps a year or 2 after HL came out). Plus it said 'loading'. Doesn't count at all.

Grand Theft Auto is one of the best examples for how to do massively free roaming levels with on the fly loading. The first game had "welcome to blah blah" when traversing islands which may have hidden some loading, but San Andreas was awesome. You could fly around the whole map within a minute or so with the jet fighter and see all the terrain below you, then get up close and you'd have people, cars, fish swimming in the sea, etc. There was a little loading for some stuff like the stadium races, but the rest of the time it was pure unadulterated free roaming.

limitations (2, Insightful)

Garganus (890454) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896487)

I'm utterly convinced those hardware limitations are well beyond the performance we trudge through. As a gamer and programmer, this just irks me to no end.
When a game is first launching, screw the 3d map loading to display behind the main menu (*cough* HL2, et al.), just give us text and load the pretty if it has time to idle. While a cut/intro movie is playing, the disc drive's lens motor should be going nuts, scanning back and forth between buffering the movie and reading data for the next level (or better yet, the disc would be laid out appropriately for this). With the same tack, do something awesome during the unavoidable en masse loadings; have us read a briefing, let us tweak our tires, show us eye candy, whatever! If Pacman was 13.4 Kb, Dr. Mario was on a 28 Kb chip, and a pair of hackers fit .kkrieger [theprodukkt.com] into 97 Kb, deep pocketed houses should manage more than a spinning icon. Again on en masse loadings, why do we need them at all? When you walk through an areaportal, it shouldn't just take the nearby rooms' load off of the graphics card, it should start trashing and loading distant geometry.

It's like they're not trying. On the flip side, some recent loading screen news off the top of my head:
Dungeon Siege http://games.slashdot.org/games/07/09/08/0354231.shtml [slashdot.org]
Resistance 2 interview [is.gd]

Re:limitations (2, Insightful)

TriezGamer (861238) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896613)

.kkrieger might be tiny, but it's a horrible example to use here. .kkriegers' proceedural generation takes WAAAAAAAAY longer than any modern load times.

Re:A rebuttal in (1)

mr_gorkajuice (1347383) | more than 5 years ago | (#25897441)

I think anyone with a reasonable amount of experience with gaming and/or programming is fully well aware that loading screens were not invented because the developer thought they looked pretty and wanted to give the player a short break anyway.

That being said, the abscence of a simple solution does not make the problem less relevant. In basically any story-driven game, immersion into the game universe is preferred, and loading screens are definitely having a negative impact on immersion. Yes, hardware has limitations, but whenever we're reminded of that, we're reminded that we're playing a game.

Re:A rebuttal in (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25897463)

Author of your the parent's parent (#25895863) responds,

What would you rather have instead of loading screens?

Now that is a good question. Mostly we're against "Loading..." because it kills the suspension of disbelief. Even changing 'Loading' to "Traveling to next world..." or a few pictures of a guy cooking dinner and then sleeping by a fire waiting for the next day, or in an elevator with flashing lights passing the characters face as the zoom up the next floor, or a comic book that develops the story, or a replay of exciting moments that the player just went through, or ... well, you get the point.

Or as people have said you can probably preload the next level as you reach the end of the current one, the Amiga game Saint Dragon did this, for example.

What we're against is the lazy idea of displaying "Loading..." which kills the mood and any tension that the game might have had.

It's annoying, so everyone stop doing it.

Re:A rebuttal in (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#25897877)

Personally I would rather have loading screens.

Call me an oddball, but I rather like knowing what my hardware's up to.

Furthermore, having a "Loading" screen to remind you that you're still in the real world gives you time to take a short break, take a piss, get a snack, etc...

Re:A rebuttal in (2, Insightful)

lorenzo.boccaccia (1263310) | more than 5 years ago | (#25898001)

Oblivion uses cells, continuously loaded and unloaded around the player. Some game uses elevators, during the elevator trip the game is loading the next area, I think half-life had some of those. Some game have a large low poly area which gets detailed as the player comes near (as the various GTA). Some other games make the transition happening visually, or presents mini games to cover up the loading.

In the end, those are all tricks, and the loading is there, it's inevitable. But there are way to make it happen without breaking the player immersion. Dawn of War presents the briefing during the loading, which is ultra cheap but it's better than printing a disc loading message.

Also, having to save and to checkpoint to often deter from the immersion.

warning: rant
If it was for me, I'd remove outright the ability for the player to save. Retain the ability to save at any point, just make it difficult to checkpoint and branch the game.

Re:A rebuttal in (1)

FictionPimp (712802) | more than 5 years ago | (#25898455)

Well mass effect tried to hide the loading screens with elevators....

THAT was annoying.

Hey now that I just had a huge firefight, watch me sit in this elevator while I wait for my next firefight.

Re:A rebuttal in (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#25898835)

Being a homebrew game dev I've always given this much thought, and I think, why on Earth does such a sophisticated game as Half Life 2 or Call of Duty 4 MP need have static pre-rendered screens when loading something? It seems to me like no-one really ever puts much thought in it, and think that it's just the way it's meant to be.

What you really should do depends on your game, but here's a thought : for example, in a FPS, you can find yourself directly enclosed in a vehicle/small room. This would be so fast to load, you can do the rest of the loading (which I'll assume mainly stresses on disk I/O) while you're in there. Of course there are plenty alternatives, you can do like CoD4 does for single player missions and have a sort of cool looking briefing that is directly relevant and helps with providing a setting and context and improve immersion. Alternatively, you can offer something interactive, like a map and let the user decide of some stuff, and let them choose their inventory, something like that, or just any kind of activity relevant to the main game. It can even be a mini-game, especially if the loading time is long!

Re:A rebuttal in (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899107)

Actually I liked the system shock 2/bioshock method.

Build in a lift (elevator) or airlock/bulkhead. Wrap an animation around it happening, to hide the fact that you've loaded a tiny bit of level, and are busy loading the rest whilst 'something' appears to be happening.

Re:A rebuttal in (1)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896129)

If I had mod points I'd mod you purely for the Amiga Power reference. God I miss those guys. Only completely honest games magazine to ever exist. Team 17 once tried to sue them for giving a bad review, their entire argument being "Everyone else liked it".

I don't mind loading screens too much. I remember spending 10-15 minutes loading stuff from tape. I had one game ("Ace" on the Commodore Plus 4) that took 30 minutes to load.

A minor loading delay these days doesn't bother me.

I really don't see the big deal, but then perhaps I don't get as absorbed as some people. I never sit there and when assaulted with a loading screen think "SHIT! I'M PLAYING A GAME!!"

I wonder if it is some guide to how the individual perceives reality, or separates reality from fantasy? Now THAT would have been a much more interesting article than the worthless gibberish linked in the story.

Elevators! (1)

Keith Russell (4440) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896389)

That's why those elevator rides take so long in Mass Effect. They added some news blurbs (which sometimes start quests) and conversations to fill the time, but they're mostly to hide long loads. A lot of players have complained about them, but I'll give BioWare credit for finding a way to use that time for plot and character development, not just a progress bar and some hint text.

I hear Dice used the same technique in Mirror's Edge, but without the witty bon mots from Wrex, it just wouldn't be the same.

Re:A rebuttal in (1)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 5 years ago | (#25897221)

It seems like this is an excellent case in point to show that the 4th wall does exist in games. People do get lost in games and anything that ruins a carefully crafted mood is a bad idea. There's no excuse for it.

But that doesn't mean it's true for everyone. The example in the summary isn't a good one, IMHO, but think I do see what he means, and I'm not sure how interruptions to this experience are supposed to refute it, anyway.

ACTUALLY.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25898451)

....Call of Duty 4 did/does not have a "loading screen" as such.

It instead uses an animated "satellite view", with the briefing for the next level happening at the same time as that level is loading, which can be tracked via status bar at the bottom.

This in an interesting change of viewpoint- the player goes from a first person, fighting soldier level of deep interaction right out to a remote godlike/CIA intel operative perspective.

Thus, COD4 countered the loss of 1st person involvement by replacing it with a new perspective that complimented and in fact Required the disassociation of say, a CIA UAV operator.

Think of the CIA Ops room in Syriana, their only contact with real events being the screen,a s things blow up and people die. (in the movie plot, that is:) )

So, this (COD4's loading process)was a perfect example of both breaking the 4th Wall and yet simultaneously reinforcing it!

It was also helped by the use of the in-game engine and the very smooth transfer back in, swooping back down and into the action.

So, seeing as COD4 was released worldwide on Nov 9, 2007, the above article is a load of horse dung written by some one who is pretty obviously NOT up to speed on where gaming interaction is at, or could be, even with current technology.

Fail.

HDK

Immersion... (5, Insightful)

socrplayr813 (1372733) | more than 5 years ago | (#25895869)

It's just as natural for a player to say, "I defeated that boss," as it is to say, "Snake defeated that boss," since Snake is and is not the player at the same time. It is likewise natural for a player to say, "I punched an enemy soldier," when in reality, she punched no one. All she did was press a button.

I don't agree with this at all. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say anything like "Snake defeated the boss." He's a representation of you and can't do anything on his own. You're the one doing the work to finish the game. It makes no sense for me to give him credit for beating the boss.

I think any game developer that is trying to tell a story should be just as wary of breaking the fourth wall as any author/playwright/director. The point of many/most stories is to draw the audience in. The interactivity in games is a much stronger tool than anything in the other forms of entertainment. This doesn't apply to all games, of course, but developers should be careful about breaking that immersion if they're telling a story.

Re:Immersion... (3, Interesting)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896045)

And I don't agree with you at all. I frequently refer to characters as opposed to myself - not usually in actions, as I'm much more in control of the action, but in terms of properties ("He's got good magic skills but terrible agility") or narrative ("She was Light Side and destroyed the Star Forge") I usually prefer to speak in the third person. I'd say that this is because I'm more interested in the story than in immersion - I actually find it uncomfortable to be immersed too much in the game. I'm me, not some fictional character, and I don't like losing track of that, even briefly.

Re:Immersion... (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896883)

Obviously the properties are tied to the character, any other player using your save would see the same properties. What's tied to you is your ability and what you do with it.

Re:Immersion... (1)

absoluteflatness (913952) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896055)

I don't think I've ever heard anyone say anything like "Snake defeated the boss."

Yeah, no one ever says something like that, but people blame the character for things that go wrong all the time: "I had almost beaten that boss until stupid Snake decided not to fire his stupid gun when I told him to."

People congratulate themselves for progress and successes, but blame the game for errors and failure pretty often. I guess you could say the immersion is broken when things don't behave as they're supposed to.

It's also strange that the post specifically mentions Metal Gear, as that series is pretty well known for intentionally breaking the fourth wall.

Re:Immersion... (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#25897323)

When people blame the game that means they haven't notice anything that went wrong on their part and felt the failure was beyond their control. It's frustrating when you lose progress through no fault of your own.

Re:Immersion... (4, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896311)

I am a game developer. And while I have the highest respect for Gambit, I have to disagree with Matthew Weise here (and, strangely, agree with Ernest Adams).

Parent poster is spot on... Any 4th wall violations in video gaming should be very carefully planned. One of Weise's arguments is because the technology is always inherently present, game / reality interactions are less intrusive. I'd argue that because the technology is always present, creation of a true suspension of disbelief is incredibly difficult, and inherently more valuable.

All semantics aside, you're trying to get the player into a flow state where they forget the controller, and interact with the video-game world as if their own didn't exist. If you have done that, you have successfully engaged the player. There is definitely some degree of "press the X button to continue" that players have been trained to accept without losing that sense of engagement. But at some point you're arguing that the player *should* remain engaged due to syntactic reasoning, rather than dealing with the reality of how average people interact with their entertainment.

I'd argue that Psycho Mantis in MGS was more of a clever parlor trick or large explosion than a shining example of player interaction. MGS is an interesting choice, as it is notorious for finding all new and unique sharks to jump. Lots of players complained about broken immersion at the end of MGS2, and most of MGS4.

Of course, all of this is academic until you hook the player's head up to some electrodes and see how their brain pattern responds to real stimulus. Unfortunately, I don't have one of those labs handy. We may have to agree to disagree until such a time as we can get some time on loan.

Re:Immersion... (1)

Shin-LaC (1333529) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896925)

I really appreciated the fact that you began your post with "I am a game developer", and not "IAAGD (I am a game developer)".

Re:Immersion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25897759)

All semantics aside, you're trying to get the player into a flow state where they forget the controller, and interact with the video-game world as if their own didn't exist.

Absolutely. Almost anyone that's played games at a highly competitive level can tell you about how the last thing they're thinking of is the keyboard or joystick or whatever. They're concentrating on making the right moves with their character.

From the other point of view, I've found that after playing FPSs with a zoom button for a marathon session or two, the instinct to zoom carries over into the real world. I'll see something I want to zoom in on, my fingers will twitch slightly, and it'll take me a second to realize I can't actually do that in real life...

Re:Immersion... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25897921)

(Same AC as above here)

I also realized, this is what I hate most about quick-time events in games: they instantly take you out of the immersion you get when you are comfortable with a control scheme, forcing you to remember that you have a controller with an X button on it and you need to press that button right now!, regardless of what X used to do.

Re:Immersion... (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896365)

Depends on the level you're talking about and the interface used. I'd consider many MMORGs, MUDs and "interactive fiction" games to make it extremely hard to differentiate between the character and the player. I'd consider games like Elite, Virus 2000 and TORCS to likewise blur the boundaries substantially. If you add in the current work on CAVE systems, neural interfaces and other such gizmos, you can definitely see the possibilities of a total collapse between virtual environments and reality. Mind you, I'm not so sure I'd be opposed to that. You'll notice that most (if not all) of the types of game, or examples of games, I gave have a very dedicated core "cult" following bordering on addiction (although apparently not everyone agrees, according to other stories on the front page). The "addictive" element, in my opinion, is exactly what is being talked about - the total collapse of the fourth wall.

Now, on the flip-side, if you look at games that are perhaps "popular" for a while but aren't really considered that addictive and are soon forgotten when something else comes along, you will see that they rigidly differentiate between player and character. It is my belief that it is this element that makes games exciting for people, that if you actually try to keep players at a distance from their characters, you will destroy the magic of the game entirely.

Is this just true of computer games? I'll argue no. RPGs that keep the player at a distance die off. Those that immerse the player survive and thrive. Is it only true of games? I'll say no to that as well. Books, movies and songs that draw the audience into the "sub-creation" (as Tolkien called it) are longer-lasting that those that don't.

Indeed, Tolkien's call for MORE sub-creation and GREATER destruction of the "fourth wall" is IMHO a better guide for how popular culture should develop. We should not fear our own creations, only our fear of them.

Re:Immersion... (1)

DreadPiratePizz (803402) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896371)

Interestingly though, when a new game is about to come out in a series, people ask "I wonder what will happen next", not "I wonder what I'll be able to do next".

Re:Immersion... (1)

Peeteriz (821290) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896969)

Depends on the genre possibly, but I see the completely contrary viewpoint, where the focus in previews of the next installments is in checking out the gameplay tweaks and small feature additions, and the story twists are mostly disregarded, with a vague paragraph about the new bad-guys-of-the-month.

Two fourth walls (2, Informative)

coppro (1143801) | more than 5 years ago | (#25895871)

I disagree. The video game has a double-layered fourth wall, from a narrative point of view. While it's true that the character does act according to the player's actions, there are two very definite fourth walls visible. The first is the existence of the game period, and is broken when a character instructs you to, say, press the A button, but as if it were a part of natural speech. The character's speech acknowledges the video game, but only in the sense to convey information to the player. The other manner is when the characters actually break the fourth wall (such as in Super Paper Mario, when the player is addressed as "Hey, you! Yeah, you, in front of the TV!" (quote is from memory)).

Integration... (2, Insightful)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 5 years ago | (#25895877)

One of the interesting properties of the video game medium is being the cause of in-game events. Sure, there's programming governing every action that takes place in the game world. But your input is triggering various parts of that programming. Your choices are the character's choices.

Given this, it only makes sense that the player should come to identify more closely with the character being controlled in a video game than with a character in a passive medium, such as TV. Even good books that make you empathize or somehow resonate with characters don't really relate the characters to you; it's as if the character is someone you know going through some sort of drama (the drama being the plot of the book). The character in a book is another person.

A new term is born..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25895879)

Geekistensial.

bogus (5, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#25895909)

It's just as natural for a player to say, "I defeated that boss," as it is to say, "Snake defeated that boss," since Snake is and is not the player at the same time.

I have never once heard anyone ever say "Snake defeated that boss". Not once. Not Ever.

I get what the author is saying, but that was a dud example. Depending on the game, the protagonist avatars may be connected to different degrees to the player. Some games like quake, there is only me. My space marine projection is naught but me. Other games like Sam and Max have very strong characters. I control them, at some of the time, but they have their own personality separate from me. And there is a continuum from one extreme to the other.

Most players that I know instinctively differentiate between things the character does as a direct result of the player control, and the things the character does as a result of the game script. And take or deny 'ownership' of the action appropriately. And sometimes they acknowledge the control... like "Watch me make snake jump off a cliff..." But if Snake does something in a cut scene for example, there would be few players who would would say "I did X..." when describing it.

It is likewise natural for a player to say, "I punched an enemy soldier," when in reality, she punched no one. All she did was press a button.'"

This might come as a shock to the article author, but when someone shoots someone in a movie, in reality, no one got shot either.

Multiplayer game avatars (2, Interesting)

dj245 (732906) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896709)

I think multiplayer avatar interactions are much more interesting. In most MMOs, players will not stand directly in each other. I think this is a violation of a player's personal space. Nearby players who are messaging will stand at "speaking distance", even though it makes no difference to the game's chat mechanism how far apart they are. There are many other examples as well.

Re:bogus (1)

Thyran (1378783) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896751)

I agree with you, I think self-referencing goes no deeper than a language problem. It reminds me of that QI episode where Stephen Fry mentions that there are 32 words for demonstrative pronouns. Antithetically, no one has made up a word in the English language carrying the definition "the character in this game that I'm controlling". If there was we'd all be using that word.

I wouldn't know if there has already been an attempt to make up a word.

Re:bogus (1)

Thyran (1378783) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896787)

It reminds me of that QI episode where Stephen Fry mentions that there are 32 words for demonstrative pronouns in the Aleut language.

Fixed!

Re:bogus (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896873)

I half concur.

I've never heard "snake killed the boss". All and every time it's "I did it".

However on:

> This might come as a shock to the article author, but when someone shoots someone in a
> movie, in reality, no one got shot either.

In a game we could say:

1 - Snake punched the guy.
2 - I punched the guy.
3 - I pressed the button.

Option 1 doesn't happen because the player isn't a spectator, but there's an implied question in the article: "why doesn't 3 happen?"

Re:bogus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25897691)

It's just as natural for a player to say, "I defeated that boss," as it is to say, "Snake defeated that boss," since Snake is and is not the player at the same time.

I have never once heard anyone ever say "Snake defeated that boss". Not once. Not Ever.

I must provide a counter-example. In MMORPGs I usually say that my char/toon did something, not that I done it. That is although I dont role-play much...

Re:bogus (1)

luke2063 (1137533) | more than 5 years ago | (#25898967)

I have never once heard anyone ever say "Snake defeated that boss". Not once. Not Ever.

Would you expect to hear "Cloud attacked the undead Zombie, but that didn't do much, then when Tifa gave it a Phoenix Down it died"
or
"I attacked the undead Zombie, but that didn't do much, then when Tifa gave it a Phoenix Down it died"

I would expect the first example to be the more common, despite Cloud being the primary protagonist, and your avatar for the non combat parts of the game.

Although I guess more people would say "I used Cloud to attack the undead Zombie, but that didn't do much, then when I used Tifa to give it a Phoenix Down it died"

Maybe people are thinking "I used Snake to defeat that boss", but as using Snake is required, then there is no need to say it?

You see, until the physicist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25895943)

...opens the player's parent's basement door and descends the steps to gather instrumental or observational data, the player exists in an indeterminate state where he both is and is not the character.
The indeterminate state, while not classifiable under binary true-false logic, is nonetheless theoretically important and not to be confused with a scientifically meaningless question such as: "If the player gets laid by way of his deep immersion in the virtual universe, is he or is he not the character?"

i punched that boss. screw the character. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25895951)

I can't agree with the researcher's assertion. At least from my own perspective, I have never once related to someone a story about my experience in a video game in the third person. I tell the story of what *I* did in the game.

Who cares what Nico Bellic did? Nobody says "Engineer" got the top score in a Team Fortress 2 match, or captured the enemy's intelligence briefcase.

Even in the case of MMORPG's it is far more common to think in terms of your own actions than those of your "character" or avatar.

So, to paraphrase Douglas Adams, 10 out of 10 for effort, but minus several million for correctness of the assertion.

Sonic the Hedgehog is the 1st example I thought of (4, Insightful)

no reason to be here (218628) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896059)

to counter his point.

In the original Sonic the Hedgehog, if you stopped giving input, after a few seconds, sonic would stare out (presumably) at the player and begin tapping his foot impatiently. Direct address of the audience is, if I am not mistaken, the classic example of breaking the 4th wall.

Re:Sonic the Hedgehog is the 1st example I thought (1)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896171)

Exactly. When a character, in ANY medium, acknowledges the person, whether they be controlling them, merely watching etc... That's breaking the fourth wall. Many games do this. Sonic was one. I've had other games where the character "taps" on the screen.

Just like in movies (first one that springs to mind is Affleck and Damon in "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back"), if it's done well, it's funny.

I'm just really not sure what the author of this article was trying to get at. It seems like they are grasping at some straws for something to validate some bogus theory they have, missed entirely, and then wrote the article anyway.

Re:Sonic the Hedgehog is the 1st example I thought (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 5 years ago | (#25898787)

You know it, but... a Jay and Silent Bob movie? Feature length? Who'd pay to see that?
[Holden, Jay, and Bob look into the camera]

Re:Sonic the Hedgehog is the 1st example I thought (1)

basicio (1316109) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896349)

You are missing the point of the article. Which says that the fourth wall in games can't be broken because it doesn't exist in the first place.

Whether or not you agree with that, your example does nothing to counter that point.

Re:Sonic the Hedgehog is the 1st example I thought (3, Informative)

Veggiesama (1203068) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896401)

The author preemptively counters your counterpoint:

Sonic's impatience (nor anything else about his personality) is not made apparent otherwise. It only becomes evident by watching how he reacts to his relationship with the player. If the player is slow or absent-minded, Sonic isn't happy. This may be a very simple example, but I think it serves to illustrate just how bound up fiction can be with interface elements in games. Sonic is aware of his relationship with the game controller, and with the player, and reacts to them within the psychological parameters set by the game's fiction. Just because he is being puppeteered by the player does not mean that Sonic ceases to be himself. He is holding up his end of the relationship, "So what is your problem?" he seems to be thinking. Should you, the player, fail to perform, he stares at you in frustrated apprehension, as if he were your co-actor on stage and you had forgotten your line in the middle of a performance. Sonic isn't breaking the fiction [i.e., fourth wall] - you are. He's just sitting there, in character, waiting for you to join him in the game world.

(emphasis mine)

It's a complicated argument, but essentially, the author says there is no fourth wall. The relationship between the gamer and the game is different than the relationship between the audience and the conventional theater.

The author acknowledges that the narrative of a game can break the fourth wall (numerous adventure games do this), but he argues that the gameplay itself cannot, because the relation between avatar and player is usually quite interdependent; much moreso than narrator and reader (books), or lead actor and viewer (TV/movies).

Both is and is not the character? (5, Funny)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896061)

What, is this some sort of Schrodinger's player?

Re:Both is and is not the character? (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896091)

+1 Nimoy as on "I am and am not Spock."

It means that the character is no longer discardable because it has irrevocably infused real life with insights not otherwise attainable, but it stops short of psychological conditions in which someone lives the character and believes it (rather than performance art).

No fourth wall? (1)

readin (838620) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896233)

The author seems to be saying that because the user has greater connection with the events on screen, there is no fourth wall. He has a point, but he misses the point. Yes, the fourth wall that keeps the user from affecting events on screen has disappeared, but it could never be broken by the actors in movies anyway. What "breaking the fourth wall" really refers to is interfering with complete immersion or complete escapism. A few exceptional cases in film have broken the fourth wall successfully, but most times it is done either in comedies or documentaries. Very rarely is it done in action movies or dramas.

Video games have controllers, and that is a fact. But so is the fact that movies have a 2D screen. Both are attempts to immerse the viewer/player, and both have limitations. As technology improves, the immersion improves. The movies went from silent, to talkies, to color. Controllers have gone from keyboards to unmoving controllers to rumbling controllers. Nothing in these progressions suggests that people no longer want immersion and escapism.

The author mentions that Zork had instructions that referred to the user. Big deal, I remember watching slide shows that contained instructions at the beginning to flip the slide every time I heard a ding. When you have new users or new technologies you have to do some upfront instruction, and perhaps some instruction throughout. But you only do as much as you need to. You don't go looking for ways to break that barrier.

The author also mentions the impatient behavior of Sonic when the user doesn't do anything for a while. The problem with this example is mentioned by the author, but not recognized by the author as a problem. When Sonic acts impatient, the user has already dropped out of the immersion. The user is most likely talking to a friend, going to the bathroom, or is in some other way distracted from the game. So Sonic is not breaking the wall, it was broken by the user.

The Sanity game mentioned seems like an interesting exception. But it hardly makes the case that fourth wall breaking is ok in general.

Re:No fourth wall? (1)

Veggiesama (1203068) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896495)

Games break the fourth wall all the time. Any time a game tells you what button to press, there was a conscious decision at some point to break the wall. If the wall was never broken, then it wouldn't be a game; it'd be a long cinema scene or something (think: why do people like Valve games and complain about long MGS/Final Fantasy cutscenes?). Because of this, the author says there is no fourth wall, because the gamer is an integral part of the experience (I think it's a lot more profound than it sounds).

Maybe this would be more poignant: if you play a movie, and no one is around to watch it, is it still a movie?

If a game is turned on, but no one plays it, is it still a game?

(Literary buffs will counter with the idea that a reader/viewer brings their own views along whenever they experience art. I agree, but don't feel like dealing with that issue here.)

One last thing about MGS: I think the author commends MGS for acknowledging the integral relationship between gamer and game and then incorporating it into the narrative itself (with varying levels of success). I don't necessarily believe he thinks all games should try this, or even that this is the best way of constructing a game's story. He probably just thinks it's interesting from a literary standpoint.

I'm not sure that this is all that subtle. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896329)

It seems to me that the relationship between the player and the avatar, while not without its complexity, is pretty much identical to a relationship with which we are already familiar: the user and the tool. Avatars have the curious property of being entirely virtual; but they are really very little different than the other tools that we've been using since sometime in the "grunting hominids of the savanna" stage.

Punchline (4, Funny)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896517)

It is likewise natural for a player to say, "I punched an enemy soldier," when in reality, she punched no one. All she did was press a button.'"

Likewise, I could say "I punched the monkey" when in reality, all I did was install a keylogger.

What happens when... (1)

Veggiesama (1203068) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896547)

What happens when virtual reality becomes as real as actual reality?

What happens when these "threshold markers" [i.e., controllers, or the technological interfaces between game and gamer] become invisible to the user? Has this already happened to some degree?

(I remember playing F-Zero for a long time one day. A few hours later while actually driving, I had a fleeting impulse to double-tap the trigger button to butt another driver off the road. Of course, the car didn't have a trigger button. Still, it was eerie to have an outside stimulus trigger that phantom feeling of a controller in my hand. I don't think this is all that uncommon or even that frightening, but more intriguing than anything.)

Re:What happens when... (1)

a.deity (665042) | more than 5 years ago | (#25898925)

I'd say the immersion is better with the threshold markers in place, your example being perfect of that. When Crazy Taxi came out on the Dreamcast, I kept thinking to myself, "I bet I can get there faster if I shift to reverse, hit the gas, then back to drive and hit the gas again!" Luckily, the fact that I wasn't holding a controller made it obvious that it wouldn't work like that, but the compulsion (even just a small voice in the back of your mind) is still there. Glad I don't drive a car with a DC controller, otherwise I'd still be paying off the transmissions...

No Kitchen (1)

Hangin10 (704729) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896639)

I hear there's no spoon either. Now there's no wall. So now I have no privacy in my difficulties in consuming my soup.... Great.

Rehash of old Gamasutra article. (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#25896701)

This article is a bad rehash of a 2004 Gamasutra article. [gamecareerguide.com] It doesn't improve much on that article, although it should. There are some significant issues to explore here.

A good starting issue is the relationship between graphical viewpoint and literary viewpoint. In some games, the player has exactly the viewpoint of the character they're controlling. In others, the player is a step back from the character graphically. Tomb Raider is an example. Note that in Tomb Raider, you're controlling Lara Croft, but you're not her, as her commentary makes clear.

Looking out from the character's viewpoint creates the problem that the player sometimes needs a bigger field of view than the screen provides. There have been a few attempts to fix this problem with VR-type hardware, but those are rare, and if you've ever played a game in full gloves-and-goggles VR gear, you know why. Providing view-direction controls is usually painful for gameplay. That's what drives game designers towards a remote viewpoint.

This is completely independent of the literary viewpoint. There are games where the user is the character, there are games where the user drives the character, and there are games like the Sims where the user can only influence the character. These are literary conventions, independent of the graphical viewpoint. There seems to be a convention that if your viewpoint is from the character's eye position, you are the character. Once the viewpoint takes a step back, the possibility of some disassociation from the character is opened up.

Now consider shared virtual worlds with avatars. In Second Life, your avatar is you - no question. Most MMORPGs are like that. Why? Because you're held responsible for the acts of your avatar. If you're a jerk in Second Life, it has consequences. Life in Everquest has duties; when your guild is raiding, you're expected to be there fighting with them.

All this is well known in the game design community. The article doesn't really capture the subtle issues.

The player is the character... (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 5 years ago | (#25897125)

... really the whole point of playing an interactive game is to be there, to be present, to be interacting. The "avatar" is merely a game developers idea of what kinds of avatars will appeal generally to a broad audience. Personally the thing that got me so hooked on Galactiv Civilizations 2 and Need for speed underground, was the ability to shape and customize your "avatar" (in GC2 it was ships, in NFS it was cars), to a greater or lesser degree. NFS was limited by the designs of the cars themselves and our expectations of what 'cars' should look like. In Galciv2 you have more leeway and your designs did not have to submit to such expectations of "looking right".

In fact it's a turn off when game developers make characters people don't want to BE playing and have no feedback when you change gear/armor/etc/etc, Diablo and Diablo2 had some amount of visual feedback when users changed equipment and that's what I thought really added to the game - you are there, you are in the game, you are able to modify and change stuff and have that change reflected in the reality of the game world. Their is level of personal investment in characters whether people are aware of it or not, even 'machines' like planes, cars, etc. Because you are the one in control of the experience provided game developers have given you something you want to experience.

Eternal Darkness Did this exceptionally well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25897127)

Eternal Darkness wouldn't be the amazing game that it was if not for breaking the 4th wall in such creative ways as turning the volume down, creating fake save file errors, character deaths, and other gotcha events that really made the game feel like it was playing with you. The rest of the game was mediocre, but that had to be one of the most imaginative concepts I've ever experienced. The author should play through once or twice.

Your avatar is not you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25897211)

I have trouble with the whole avatar is you thing. For example Quake, if the avatar is all you, how come you are not at strong as the character, or as skilled with weapons, or have the same endurance. I would argue that the strongest connection with the in-game avatar is when there isn't one at all, like in a driving game (say F1) where you drive the simulated car (preferably with a wheel). Anything else where the player takes on attributes of the character (strength, skills, or the lack of pain) then the avatar is most definitely not all the player, but a hybrid. The lack of pain one is a key factor as it changes the way people behave. Having you Second Life character imprisoned is not the same as being imprisoned yourself, there are always other games to play.

Thank goodness! (1)

Clovis42 (1229086) | more than 5 years ago | (#25898173)

It is likewise natural for a player to say, "I punched an enemy soldier," when in reality, she punched no one. All she did was press a button.'"

Last night I tried out the game Rose and Camellia. Google it, it's great! Anyway, after playing I went up to my wife and said, "I slapped her on the cheek!". My wife then explained to me that going around slapping women until they pass it out is a bad thing. Apparently this is true even though I was a woman while I was doing it. Slapping anyone silly is bad, no matter how fun it looked on South Park the other night.

So, as you can imagine, it was quite a relief to find out that I hadn't really slapped anyone at all. On the other hand, it also means that I didn't really run a whole 20 meters (yeah, that's right!) when I played QWOP the other day. I've now learned that I actually have to move my thigh and calf muscles manually to actually claim that I did some exercise. Bummer.

Crap, I just realised that my sig isn't even real. I'm not really "Clovis", that's just a fictitious name I use on the internet. And the letters that make up that name wouldn't be me even if that was my real name. So, no sig, that is not that guy that I am.

Not really a wall... (1)

NeverNow (611234) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899065)

Maybe in videogames it's not quite a wall that's broken, more like a police station, suspect-identification mirror (forgot the correct name, sorry). The gamer is on the see-through side, so he always knows the character is indeed a character in a fictional world; the wall is "broken" when the characters in the game also gain awareness that there is an outer, real world beyond the mirror, and a gamer controlling them. Makes sense?
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