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Games Entertainment

Can Illogical Videogames Still Be Enjoyable? 155

Posted by simoniker
from the crazy-like-a-fox dept.
Thanks to Skotos for its editorial arguing that there's a certain level of 'realism' that all games must stick to in order to be enjoyable. The author starts by suggesting: "Bringing realism into a discussion that includes fireballs, trolls, energy swords, blasters, and nanotechnology is, at first glance, totally out of place", but goes on to explain: "Fun [videogame] environments both surprise and reassure us. They surprise us by working on rules that are very different from those of the real world, and reassure us by having an internal consistency and logic that is reminiscent of that we find in the real world." Are there some games which break all rules of logic and still remain addictive?
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Can Illogical Videogames Still Be Enjoyable?

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  • by real_smiff (611054) on Monday February 02, 2004 @08:20AM (#8157347)
    Fantasy or sci-fi movies can be great fun when they have their own internal logic (Blade Runner) or a disaster when they don't (Matrix 3).

    Now off to RTFA ;)

  • Not Sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 02, 2004 @08:39AM (#8157450)
    "Realism" is not "logic" is not "consistency". It's a vocabulary list. :) The article and summary seems to just confuse all these things. There isn't any connection between them.

    A game can be consistent, unreal and illogical. Super Mario 64, for example.

    A game can be consistent, unreal and logical. Someting like Unreal or Quake comes to mind.

    You can have various combinations of the above and still have a successful game, though I'm betting an inconsistent, unreal and illogical game would not be very easy to play. :)
  • by vasqzr (619165) <vasqzr@noSPAM.netscape.net> on Monday February 02, 2004 @08:50AM (#8157506)

    The correct way to write "tanooki" is "tanuki".
    In the japanese mythical stories, "tanukis" are creatures with transformation abilities.
  • by Funky Ferret (729392) on Monday February 02, 2004 @09:13AM (#8157611)
    "logic" is a broader concept than "consistency".
    When you say something is consistent, you have to establish what with, or you don't know what the claim means.
    When you say it is logical, you sound like you're appealing to a universal concept - you don't have to ask what it's "logical about".

    So when you talk about realism and logic in games, you don't necessarily mean correct physics or real-world stuff - but someone might. If you mean internal consistency, call it that. It's precise and accurate.

    I don't think any game could be much fun without internal consistency. I can't solve any problems if I can't rely on experience in the game-world, except through fluke. The number of times I've been annoyed with a game because something works everywhere but the place you're stuck in, apparently just "because"...

    That said, if I'm not looking for internal sense, I don't mind. I can bumble randomly just seeing what goes on. But that's not the same kind of game - there's no skill, no judgment, and no real rules. It's just an experience.

    There's lots of games which are full of illogical things, in a broad sense, but I don't see how that matters.
  • by iamjim (313916) on Monday February 02, 2004 @09:21AM (#8157632)
    Realism is not required for enjoyment - as with most things in life entertaining (fiction writing in general - tv, books, etc - and paintball) - it is people doing things or thinking about things that they normally can't do. Video games allow the immagination to wander in a 'new', interactive dimension. I would argue that realism, in most cases of fiction will hinder rather than help - until you start talking about virtual sex and other reality/pleasure based 'games' where realism combined with configurable fantasy is key.

    But the topic of 'fun' is what I am curious about. There is something decidedly and disturbingly addicted to making abombinable snowman smack a falling penguin with a baseball bat. It isn't particularly fun, yet it is higly addicitve. There is little-to-no skill involved, yet I have seen people 'play' for hours.

    So is there a different between addictive and enjoyable? SSX is fun, hitting penguins is addictive. What do you think?
  • by MMaestro (585010) on Monday February 02, 2004 @09:33AM (#8157671)
    Realism in gaming is a trend thats only been started more recently in the late 1990s. Prior to 1990s, pretty much a huge majority of all games (console or PC) were insanely unrealistic. Zelda, pretty much every adventure game, Pac-Man, etc were all unrealistic yet some are still played to this day.

    Even mid-1990s games avoided the "realism" fad thats still going around today. Half-Life is probably the most recent and clear example of this fact, a scientist with knowledge on weapons ranging from pistol, to rocket launchers, to alien weapons saves the world from alien invasion while fighting off U.S. military forces and special op soldiers with a crowbar in hand. Not exactly America's Army realism there.

  • Let's start simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SurgeryByNumbers (726928) on Monday February 02, 2004 @09:45AM (#8157753)
    Gravity. Momentum. Lighting. I can go on. Certain basic elements are just about impossible to violate while still having a game make any kind of sense, and even then it's usually by making a game so simple that they don't apply (checkers).

    This is the empty head problem, just about. By removing all bias (in this case the attachment to real world causality), you lose your frame of reference, and can't do anything!

    And no, GTA3 does not come anywhere cloes to violating real-world logic: it merely relaxes some aspects of it (sometimes heavily), such as the response from law enforcement.

    Violating one aspect of logic doesn't make a game fail this test. You still can have plenty to go on to jump right into the game world and have it make sense, even sans manual.
  • Mod Parent Down (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Acidic_Diarrhea (641390) on Monday February 02, 2004 @09:58AM (#8157844) Homepage Journal
    +4 Interesting?

    You seem to have not understood what this article was all about. The main point you brought up is that a leaf that leads to a racoon suit does not seem to follow any reasonable symbolism in the real world. This type of statement shows a distinct lack of understanding. The article is discussing logical consistencies within a game. The leaf is logically consistent because whenever you get it, you are rewarded with a racoon suit. If you got the leaf and sometimes got a racoon suit and it modified the gaming experience in truly random ways, then you would have a logical inconsistency. Symbolism really has nothing to do with it in this context.

  • Re:Games (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Crash Culligan (227354) on Monday February 02, 2004 @10:28AM (#8158122) Journal

    Silly? Maybe, but let's take each of these individually. I bet we can learn something from them anyway.

    Chess,

    Illogical? Chess is such a logical game that it risks being boring. Except for one or two exceptions (en passant captures and castling), each piece's moves are the same throughout the game. The board remains constant. (And while there are variations from Steve Jackson Games [sjgames.com], even they have their own internal logic.)

    Tron,

    That depends which version of Tron you're talking about. The premise of the movie may have been far-fetched, but the arcade game was a collection of minigames. They don't necessarily have to have anything to do with each other; the story serves as a unifying theme.

    The later arcade game Discs of Tron was also very highly logical. It was a shoot-em-up with various challenge elements that had to be dealt with, including barriers appearing across the playing field and varying levels of platform.

    I can't speak for Tron 2.0, but it probably has its own internal logic too. (Would some poster confirm this please?)

    and Warioware.

    Ah, now this is an interesting choice of game to bring up under this topic. Like Tron (the original), it's a collection of minigames. But where Tron has four games, Warioware's number in the hundreds. And it's hard to demonstrate any logic, internal or otherwise, when the games are changing so quickly.

    Or rather, it's hard to find the logic in Warioware until you step back and take a look at the big picture. The mini-games are individual challenges which seemingly have nothing to do with each other. In fact, they seem intentionally disassociated from one another.

    Here's a game to compare it with: Trivial Pursuit. The questions fall into categories, but they don't necessarily have anything to do with one another. The questions aren't the game. The game is an overall test of knowledge. Likewise, in Warioware, the minigames themselves aren't the game. The game is an overall test of mental agility and the ability to switch quickly from one task to another.

    Trivial Pursuit : questions :: Warioware: minigames

    Someone else posted, and I generally agree: the games need some sort of internal logic in order to be comprehensible. In the case of Warioware, though, the game itself is the ability to deal with the apparent illogical barrage of activities.

  • consistency is key (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bigbigbison (104532) on Monday February 02, 2004 @10:49AM (#8158342) Homepage
    Whether the game makes sence in our real world logic, doesn't matter so much as if the rules in teh game behave the same way or at least if they don't we are given a bare minimum of explanation why.

    A great example of something that doesn't make sence in our world, but is consistent and makes sence within the logic of the game is, as Poole discusses in his book Trigger Happy, is rocket jumping. In our world shooting at your feet would blow your feet off, in FPS games, however, there is (typically) no way to shoot your own legs off, which may be illogical, or unrealistic, but the effect of combining the recoil of the rocket launcher with jumping is consistent to the rules set forth within the game.

    An example of inconsitency that really irritated me was in the first Soldier of Fortune game there is a level in a subway. In one area you enter the restroom and when you start to leave, a bad guy blasts through the wooden entry. Nowever else in the game can the player do this and I think that even the bad guys only do this in one other situation. It is inconsistent. Sure it was done to surpize the player, but it is a cheat if that is the only place it can be done and even if you reload the game to before that, you cannot shoot through the entry (even though if you look close enough you can see the cracks where it will be blown off). It was inconsistent and irritated me. Of course consistency is not a magic bullet. Games can be consistent and still be bad.
  • by slycer (161341) on Monday February 02, 2004 @11:36AM (#8158871) Homepage
    And all 3 of those were "Violated" by Serious Sam 2 which was quite simply one of the most ingenious and fun FPS games that I've played in some time.
  • Re:Gaming logic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot&castlesteelstone,us> on Monday February 02, 2004 @12:09PM (#8159153) Homepage Journal
    I don't know about today, but definitely in the earlier, 2D era there were plenty of games that had at least completely illogical aspects to them

    The word that you, and whomever wrote this boneheaded article, are looking for is "fantasitc." Not "illogical."

    Mario can fly when he gets the leaf that gives him the racoon cap and tail--this is a fantasic (i.e., "not real") part of the game, not an illogical part.

    An illogical part of the game would be if Mario randomly powered up, depending on some non-understandable syntax.

    Of course, this being /., the fact that "illogical" isn't an antonym of "realistic" won't come across to many people.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 02, 2004 @12:09PM (#8159158)
    Yes, but let's not forget Rez, if you've ever played it. No gravity, unified movement system, or standard enemies. Even the sound is unlike any other game I've seen.
  • by *weasel (174362) on Monday February 02, 2004 @12:14PM (#8159214)
    The writer doesn't have to dilineate the rules to maintain consistency. George Lucas never established exactly what powers 'the Force' conferred on its manipulators, yet no-one was particularly bothered by the much more liberal force use in the prequels.

    What a storyteller must do however, is to provide consistency and plausibility. The Wachowski brothers explained Neo's vaguely defined super-powers in the Matrix as being the result of his ability to manipulate a false-reality through a form of subconscious computer hacking. People accepted this, as they did 'the Force', without a second thought.

    However, at the end of Reloaded, and repeatedly through Revolutions, Neo demonstrated super-human powers even when he was outside of the 'false' reality of the Matrix. Most people felt this 'cheated' them of cinematic weight and emotional investment. Without explanation, without clarification, of why the old rules were able to now be violated, the audience felt as if the change, the surprise, was designed solely to fool them, not to enrich the storytelling experience. This generally arouses naught but contempt in the audience.

    Zion was repeatedly established as being 'reality', as being our world - and accordingly we cringed with the characters from the sentinel onslaught. The humans had only one effective weapon against the enemy, and using it would render them helpless to any second wave.

    Now however, there were mecha, rocket launchers, mystical powers. Hovercraft used mounted weapons to defeat many more sentinels than the relative few that Morpheus could only repel with an EMP. The audience felt foolish that they ever regarded the sentinels as truly dangerous, now that they could be blasted out of the sky by 19th century technology.

    It isn't change itself that offends the audience. It is destructive change, that which retroactively destroys the emotional value of the prior experience.

    Audiences revile at the 'it was all just a dream/game/etc'-style surprise endings (e.g. 13th floor). In those types of situations, the change robs the previous content of cinematic weight. The character we used to care about and root for turns out to be nothing more than an avatar in a game, or a shadow of reality. The audience is essentially instructed that nothing in the story prior to the change mattered in any way. The participants were not real, and were not in real danger.

    This starkly contrasts even fiction in which the unreality of the setting/participants/story is established at the outset. E.g. the Princess Bride, the Neverending Story. We knew that the story was a fairy tale, and were unsurprised when Wesley was allowed to cheat death in a story that otherwise contained no such fantastical diversions.

    Changes in gameplay should be handled according to this well known maxim - changes should be constructive, rather than destructive.

    Constructive changes will be things that do not force the fiction back to square 1.

    A new level may yield a new weapon or new units that change the players tactics - but it should never render the player's previous choices moot.

    Deus Ex shouldn't have a level in which the computer systems are hopelessly alien, effectively destroying any character who chose to specialize in hacking.
    A roleplaying game should not hand-wave a character's capture and enslavement via cut-scene and remove all their equipment and experience -forcing them to start over.
    Those changes would obviate the investment of the player.

    Tetris might have a change that requires players to match blocks of colors to score, instead of making lines. This could be a constructive change to gameplay that would create more depth in gameplay. Yet if this new goal was switched to without any notification to the player, they would be justly pissed off that their carefully constructed Tetris block was not rewarded. The unforseeable, unavoidable change would have destroyed the prior effort of the player.

    Changes can be good. But it, more than most other aspects of storytelling or game design, must be done well to not have a detrimental effect on the experience.
  • by zero_offset (200586) on Monday February 02, 2004 @12:30PM (#8159386) Homepage
    The slashdot article title is very poorly chosen. A game can be extremely logical and yet have absolutely nothing to do with realism. Tic-tac-toe is a great example. The rules are simple, very consistent, and very logical decisions can be made within the framework of the game, but it doesn't have anything to do with reality. And unfortunately for the article submitter, the original author is speaking solely about realism in the context of online role playing games.

    So the answer to the slashdot article would appear to be, simply, "No." An illogical game would only be frustrating, but a logical game not based on reality can be fun (Qix is my favorite example). Probably, however, it would have to be fairly simple (again, like Qix) otherwise the player would probably lose interest before the non-reality-based rules were understood well enough to simply play for enjoyment.

  • by obtuse (79208) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:11PM (#8160302) Journal
    A game without rules or consistency is called play or perhaps art. Computers don't do this, although they can facilitate it.

    Children make up games that are pretty illogical and inconsistent when playing. I'm remembering playing Dune/spaceship in the disconnected console room of a water treatment plant. It had multiple stations, lots of levers, dials, knobs and guages.

    There are some Calvin & Hobbes cartoons that describe this sort of play beautifully. Google calvinball for examples. Watterson gets it.

    Otherwise, games are defined by rules. Even in games whose rules change as you play, the rules are the game.

    In the childrens play, it's about fantasy and exploring different roles, or just doing stuff. Convenience and other considerations facilitate this, so the dead spring back to life, roles are reversed, time is turned back as needed, and events are replayed until a satisfactory conclusion is reached, or boredom is achieved. Really, even these games have more rules than it appears, it's just that those rules are inconsistent over time, because they change quickly, and without any acknowledgement.

    Art is similar. In art, each piece can have its own dynamic rules. Those rules can be photorealism, or a coloring book page filled in by someone enjoying the color and texture of a red crayon, and ignoring the lines completely. Much art is play.

    This is also why playing games with children can be so exhausting for adults. It can be difficult switching gears so quickly. For kids, each one is in his own fantasy world, and any part of the game that is convenient is ignored, until that becomes impossible.

    "No, I don't want to die. It's your turn to die."
  • by Doctor Cat (676482) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:00PM (#8160989) Homepage
    Thank you for the excellent example you've provided of how to play the game well. I see that your maneuever was successful and gave you a score of 5!
  • by PhoenixOne (674466) on Monday February 02, 2004 @05:17PM (#8162867)
    "But in a legitimate way, not cheap exploits like fake-talk or rocket-jumping."

    I agree with your entire point up until the rocket-jumping part (and even then I only half disagree). :)
    At first the rocket jump was a cheap exploit, but it quickly became part of the logic for FPS. Many action FPSs now include maps that require rocket jumping to get power-ups (or to get to good camping spots). This wouldn't make sense in a game like Rainbow-6, but it is a required skill in Quake Arena.

  • by Gothic_Walrus (692125) on Monday February 02, 2004 @10:06PM (#8165648) Journal
    As much as I love them, the puzzles in the Lucasarts adventure games might be one of the single most obtuse things I've encountered in my life.

    Use the shadow of a talking skull to talk a bride into rejoining her jilted groom? What?

    And let's not forget the breath mints from "Secret of Monkey Island" - poor Otis...

    The puzzles do make sense, and are completely logical...after you solve them. I can't complain, though...the games have been great for years, and will hopefully continue to be.

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