robert recently wrote that “ludonarrative dissonance” – places where a game’s rules are in conflict with its context, to put it into anna-speak – doesn’t actually exist, because players don’t experience it as dissonance. it’s more like internalizing conventions of theater, or learning the unique vocabulary of an artificial world.
now, robert makes this argument at the service of critiquing bioshock infinite, which i see as unnecessary in that that game is immediately abhorrent to anyone who might be insulted by the creation of big budget spectacle out of a white game director’s shallow failure to examine his own racism. what bioshock suffers from is ethical dissonance.
the dim places in digital worlds – places where the tension between the game’s vocabulary and its metaphor are heightened – are the ones that interest me the most. the uneven places, the asymmetries, the cracks between the joints that are wide enough to step inside – some people spend a lot of time and money making cyberspace look and feel soooorta realistic, but it’s these that make a digital world feel deeper to me, richer, more worthy of exploration.
these days, i find myself decreasingly interested in digital games. but i spent a week with crypt worlds: your darkest desires come true, by lizabeths deadman and ryerson, before finishing the game with the “good” ending. every time i played, i discovered something completely new. not because the world is vast and labrynthine and unmappable, as is goblet grotto, but because of the ways in which it breaks / unfolds to reveal new facets of itself.