Tuesday, January 09, 2007

the appeal of familiarity

"She's putting her face on."

It's a great way of saying a woman's putting on her makeup. Someone said it today and I thought it could make for an interesting creature/NPC concept: one that puts its face on, literally.

Then I wondered... Could frequent real-world allusions like this in a game add a layer of player satisfaction without disrupting positive escapism?

People who read Tolkien's LOTR book before they saw the films, people who saw the Star Wars films before playing the video games, people who experienced the boardgame Clue before the film (or vis versa); all of these are familiar with the additional layer of appeal which comes from recognition of the elements from the first media representation in the second representation. When I played SWG, hearing those classic Star Wars musical themes went a long way in augmenting my enjoyment of the game. But what exactly is the nature of that enjoyment?

Is it nostalgia? If it is, then the experience alluded to must have made a pleasant impression for an allusion to also be pleasant. If the referenced experience provoked no emotional response whatsoever, like a bland and familiar expression (ex: "don't count your chickens before they hatch"), then an allusion would likely produce a similar lack of response...or annoyance at an intrusion of everyday life into the gameworld.

Or, rather than nostalgia, is it personal pride in making the connection? When I was younger, a game was common in which the player attempts to identify a common word, phrase or expression in a pictorial representation. "Head over heels" is an easy example to imagine.

If it's a mini-game like that, and not nostalgia, then perhaps a game could benefit from allusions to reality, like the figure which has to put its face on. I'm not suggesting that any game could do this. Where appropriate, however, the effect might be substantial.

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