As a young gamer I predicted that eventually people would want to forsake reality and move into a virtual world where things are so much more interesting and fun. Slowly bit by bit I see my prediction coming true, but I also see certain aspects of games have not come to the point where there's a truly fun and immersive experience.
These days I predict that activities like Massively Multiplayer Online RPG's will become more and more mainstream and then be deemed completely unhealthy like cigarettes and it will become unfashionable but accepted as commonplace. Computer hardware has gotten to the point where graphics need not be the chief concern, but where immersiveness and options become the hallmark of a truly great RPG, much as it is in the tabletop world.
These days there's much talk about realism in RPG's, and that's an important point to discuss, realism is important as a fundamental basis for role-playing if an object breaks when we hit it with a hammer, or collapses when we pile too much weight on it and does these things in a manner consistent with how it would in reality then the player need not concern herself with interpreting that aspect of how reality and the game universe differ. If the systems in the game can seamlessly accommodate any particular action a person could do in reality then you have a wonderful foundation. A wonderful foundation, but not a game. A perfect reality simulator would be just that, a reality simulator, it is just a system and in and of it's self is just as boring as an 8th grade math textbook.
What that reality simulator needs first is a setting. As before, settings require a certain amount of commonality with reality, even puzzle games often maintain a familiar theme throughout their levels of abstract challenges. In RPG's a massive world with lots of choices and things to do, explore and break is the best. However, sometimes creating a small world with lots of potential actions is more enjoyable than a large world with a more limited scope. Interestingly female gamers have tended to gravitate to games involving a smaller scope and less violence like the Sims, or running a theme park. These days these sorts of games are easier to make and thus cheaper to sell and more prolific, but not heard of as often as the big releases. Market share though in the overall industry has women spending quite a lot of money on these sorts of games in a comparable amount to what guys are spending on big-name titles, we just don't hear about it.
Settings in RPG's while needing to be grounded in reality, also need to have aspects that allow the player to move beyond the grind of normal life while still challenging him and piquing his interest. This is done most often by creating aspects of unreality, such as magic, but can be done in other ways too. Interestingly adding aspects of unreality to a game often makes it more believable because players get lost in the broad strokes of the changes rather than nitpicking on details.
Last is the thing I like to concern myself with and that's the story… I look at games as a new medium to tell stories in and so all my perspectives are skewed towards how well the game system and setting accommodates the stories I want to tell. More on that speculation later.
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