late morning sunday design ~ The Game vs. Real Life

Welcome back to LMSD.

In most games, time passes when you play a game, or when you tell the game “I want to skip time”, or when the game tells you as part of some event “time has passed”.
Few games do anything if you decide not to play them for a long period of time, but I’ll briefly discuss a couple that do.

The Little Example: Metal Gear Solid
I’ve never really played any of these games, but I know that its bosses sometimes (often?) use meta-data. What I mean is they use… information that a game is not usually known for using. One boss peeks at your save files and looks for certain games. Another boss will die without a fight if you save during the fight, set the time forward long enough, and load it up again.
This game uses the passage of real time only as a passing curiousity.

The Big Example: Animal Crossing
Really, this is the example to talk about. Animal Crossing linked itself to real-life time and data, and is also harsh when a player (whether accidentally or not) tries to skip out on mistakes. If you leave your town for long enough, lots of things happen when you come back: Villagers ask where you’ve been, weeds are everywhere, and maybe some of your villagers have left. For good. Forever.
This game uses the passage of real time as a core mechanic!

Real Life and Games are almost always kept at arm’s length from one another (if not further).
Want another example, though, before I get into the division?

The Tamagotchi also attaches itself to real time but in a different way. While Animal Crossing simply saves the turn-off time and, upon loading, generates all of the events that might have happened (and did!), the Tamagotchi is simply always on, actively crying out for attention every so often.

What I really want to talk about
Why don’t more games do things like this? From minor playing with real life elements to heavy integration to constant and inescapable integration, you’d think more games would explore this sort of thing! But they don’t!

There is so much data that could be drawn from: Time, of course, is the first one. There’s also weather data from where the player lives, or maybe a player’s computer could be tracked — if a player logs into one account from different computers, maybe?

Thinking about this again, maybe I’m wrong? Maybe these things were tried out.

Boktai used a special sensor to detect sunlight.
Barcode Battler scanned barcodes to generate fighters… or enemies, or items (apparently!).
And I guess the life-game connection isn’t totally lost. It’s too bad these games weren’t fantastic successes, though, because I think this is one concept that has yet to be explored in so very many ways.

I can see why the sunlight game might have failed, though.

the sun! hisssss
it buuurrrns
– gamers everywhere

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About Droqen

Droqen is a game designer/developer/creator/etc. from Toronto, Ontario. View all posts by Droqen

4 responses to “late morning sunday design ~ The Game vs. Real Life

  • Maxim

    If you want an example everyone knows: Farmville uses time to have your crops grow :3

  • Droqen

    What a fool I am! Of course. I really don’t even know how I forgot that :x
    There are also lots of browser mmos where you only get so many turns per day.

    However! In these games, integrating the game with the real world aspect of ‘time’ is not so much an integral part of the game experience as it is a way to force the game -apart-. That is NOT the kind of thing I’d like to be encouraging with this blog post ;D

    That said, some browser mmos really do use it in an interesting way and would not work without this system (see again: Urban Dead). And I’m not saying games in the vein of Farmville CAN’T have cool game-real relations. They just usually dont’.

    I hope I made sense!

  • Maxim

    I agree that it is an interesting concept, but I think it’s hard to integrate it as a core gameplay feature. For instance time, people like to play whenever they are bored, but they hate it when the game decides when to play, this doesn’t always apply. You can have games that adjust only small things relative to time, but then it wouldn’t be core gameplay. I suppose a system where timing doesn’t play a role but just the amount of time passed are possible. This means players can play when they want but they’ll just have to wait for the next day, or for an hour to get what’s needed. A game that uses this is Kingdom of Loathing (google it, I’m sure you’ll love it). You get to do stuff with actionpoints, but when these points run out you have to wait for the next day to get new points :3

    Other things you mention like weather such are also difficult to have play an important role, cause they’re so variable.

    I agree that the stuff you could do with this is really interesting, but most of the time it’ll just turn into a funny extra feature (like in Black and White where your creatures footprints leave smileys on april fool’s day ^^)

    Still, if you can come up with an idea that uses something like this for solid gameplay that would be awesome! =^,^=

  • offal

    yeah i don’t really think you can do much that’s not just ‘cute’ or ancillary to the main experience. but in a small game, that’s okay!

    games attached to the ‘real world’ are pretty big these days in general! more recent examples are the faux-object peripherals (guitars, turntables, those molded plastic wii remote things…), as well as social network tied games (which are also usually time sensitive) like farmville and it’s ilk as you mentioned.

    it’s occasionally kinda cool when games use an outside-the-screen connection as a toy or feature. it also has some frightening implications. the entirety of a game takes place within it’s ‘magic circle’, and to reach outside that space opens things up for exploitation on the part of the designer, as well as the player. and uh, here’s a game where players eploit themselves via their own neurotic tendencies induced by videogame-flavoured operant conditioning..?

    of course, big corporate marketing loves this stuff, brand recognition and ‘rewarding consumers’ and all that, and they probably have the most to benefit from this kind of integration.

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