It’s been a rather wet week in Chicago. When I first started this blog, I was intent on playing and finishing Oblivion. That didn’t happen. Once again, the game lost its interest for me, and I spoke with Cap’n Perkins how I think I like making characters in the game more than I actually like progressing. I enjoy proving their mettle in the beginning, but lose interest as things become too easily obtained. Especially since the plot does not ever grab my attention and I lose focus quite quickly–it’s my world to explore, and I love dungeoneering.
Oblivion is quite beautiful in many regards (with a few issues), yet whenever it rains in the game I wonder what the point is. The same can be said for many games that come to my mind. In particular I recall my mother constantly turning off the weather in Diablo II. Beyond its power of graphically making us go oooh and ahhhh, does it serve any purpose? I don’t know about you, but walking around in metal armor while it’s pouring rain does not seem like it would be conducive to my good spirits or health. Just saying…
Yet, do games need that manner of realism? The closer we get to imitating human faces, the further away our empathy seems pushed. Common complaints include the fact that the faces are creepy and surreal. It’s like watching some twisted puppet (whose description is particularly apt whenever someone watches these character models ‘speak’). A somewhat touchy subject is also water effects. Watching the Fallout 3 (I can’t be the only one glad they didn’t add a subtitle, can I?) gameplay videos, the one for the Wasteland struck me as particularly odd.
Now, this is Bethesda, so it’s the same company that produced Oblivion. However, around 1:55 in the linked video, while talking about how water is essential to keeping your character alive, and that one has to balance one’s radiation from drinking it, the person controlling the game decides to shoot the water to show the physics behind the engine.
Okay. But to what point? Perhaps I’m being too harsh from a theatrical point of view, but it reminds me slightly of Chekhov’s gun principle: “One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.” I don’t believe in the extremity of this example (I also enjoy Oscar Wilde’s theories behind Aestheticism), but one thing from which videogame design could benefit is taking stock of what is being placed in games and whether or not it adds to a sense of immersion–or purposely tries to remove us from that feeling. These days it appears that we’re seeing more and more ‘random’ weather effects that don’t necessarily add particularly to a title. However, at our current state, the majority of games either don’t care or are trying to immerse us in their worlds, not disconnect us.
So, what am I trying to say? No, I do not necessarily believe all weather in all games should somehow act as an impediment (and one can argue its use on the psyche of the player), but it appears to be one of those elements of game design which we take for granted. Hey, it’s a real world, it should have real weather. I would probably add that they should also have realistic voice acting, but at least they can get the weather to look correct for the most part (oh the gift of illusion). What I am saying is that we could perhaps benefit from stepping back and deciding what is and is not necessary, how we connect, and what actually causes us to immerse ourselves in the worlds that these designers have built.