Sunday, June 09, 2013

The uncanny entertainment valley - is the news a game world?

Nice sentiment via Interconnected:

"Nintendo are cowards for not making a smartphone with Animal Crossing as the interface."

Intriguing because it puts information into a realm that's not quite ambient info, not quite characterful info, not quite a game, not quite a world.

To enter into a game world is to escape the real world - even playing an ARG is mostly an exercise in trying to work out what the boundary between the two is. We like reality to be real and stories to be unreal.

So would a game world that intends to deliver real world invitation be a game, or an interface? Or more importantly, would you be there to play (the unreal), or to know (the real)?

I'm keeping this deliberately dichotomous not because I think such a setup is inherently so, but because I think that's what we've trained our modern brains to do: that is, decide if we are being "real" or not. Confusing the two scares us.

This isn't just limited to gaming though. I'm often addled by the idea that people watch the news for its own sake, for example. Once the news becomes something to consume without practical value - ie. once you consumer it more for emotional value rather than to inform actions - then it is, I think, closer to "entertainment". In the same way we watch horror films in order to be scared, not to (in general) work out what we would do in the same situation. (Although perhaps there's a lot of overlap.)

So are we watching the news with "entertainment/game/unreal" intent, or with "find out useful information" intent? What makes us choose?

And when do we choose to play games with an intent to effecting the real world?

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