David Myers, for example, argues strongly against the value of backstory in games, suggesting that it is often imposed on games for commercial reasons but likely to interfere with, rather than to support, gameplay. In games such as these, the challenge offered to the player includes realizing the pre-existing narrative structure and making sense of the narrative context in which gameplay occurs. The Max Payne titles demonstrate a rather different approach. This invites a process of hermeneutics of the kind suggested by Kücklich, even if rather limited and obvious in the conclusions it supports. The fact that they have to move across a boundary to come into play underlines the fact that an initial state of separation exists. But games, like other cultural products, always contain potential for the creation of extrinsic as well as intrinsic meanings.
A similar kind of intensity is offered by many other games, especially in sequences in which the player is put under increased pressure by factors such as particularly heavy assault, tight deadlines or direct competition with others human or computer-generated. What happens, for example, when the player-character is walked through vegetation, in this case the fronds of a plant about the same height as the character? Paidea when victory has already been achieved in everything but name or when it is impossible is something of an indulgence, with nothing at stake. Spaces such as those of the Star Wars games evoke established narrative associations. Issues examined in detail include the characteristics of gameplay and its relationship with narrative, genre, virtual landscapes, realism, spectacle and sensation. In one study involving children aged 11 and 12, two structurally identical games were offered to groups divided on gender lines. Much the same can be said here as for other media. This can be an effective way of increasing an impression of presence, giving some sense of real weight and mass to an experience such as pushing a racing car to its limits on a track.
We do not claim to cover all possible aspects of games and gaming, however. In Max Payne and The Getaway, the familiar scenario is that of the outlawed anti-hero, forced to demonstrate his capacity for violence against his will. The environment of Max Payne is responsive in more detail than most of its contemporaries, for example. In between are games that offer a variety of third-person views, located inside the game-world but not directly through the eyes of the player-character. A number of bridges are initially closed to the player, restricting access in much the same way as in the original. In earlier games, sounds often exist as separate and discrete events, appearing one at a time.
We have sought to use a wide range of examples drawn from different game genres and platforms, but there are limits to how far this is possible. Clear the screen, gain another life, and they start lower, closer. The cut-scene casts its meanings forward, strengthening the diegetic, rhetorical dimension of the event to come. More guards, prompting you to twist the in-game camera rapidly to get a good aim. An example of the latter is the unintended use found for magnetic proximity mines in the third-person stealth game Deus Ex 2000.
Degrees of Freedom At the most restrictive end of the spectrum are games that afford no scope for spatial exploration. Spectacular transformation: cut-scene in which the principal player-character of Primal 2003 is about to shift into new and more powerful demonic form 158 13. Saving comes into play, as in so many games, because of the constant likelihood of the player-character being killed and having to start again. Responsibility: Geoff King and Tanya Krzywinska. In Primal and Buffy the central characters have their heroic destinies foisted upon them by metaphysical forces. The death of a player-character is, clearly, not remotely akin to the death of the player.
Many games offer a range of modes of movement. Part of the pleasure of the game results from a combination of graphical-realist detail in itself and the fact that this is used to recreate aspects of the real-world geography and landmarks of central London as an environment within which gameplay tasks are set. This is found in terms of both graphical realism and in details of setting, equipment and functionality, issues to which we return in detail in Chapter 3. Relatively crude narrative material is, in fact, probably best suited to the job, in existing game formats, providing a few strong hooks on which to hang gameplay activities and well-matched to the protracted and multilevelled engagement of most games. Impressions of presence can also differ within these broad categories, however, depending on a number of other factors.
Play is always shaped by, and appears within, particular cultural contexts, even if these are often largely implicit and kept in the background. In general, the balance between gameplay and meanings created by associational context is likely to favour the former over the latter. This might happen when a mission is going particularly well. Yawning holes in the ground that delimit the playing space of Silent Hill 2 operate more enigmatically, signifying the destruction created by some strange force. This is another situation in which contextual background is likely to be reduced to the more distant background, the gameplay situation taking the shape of an abstract problem to be overcome rather than one that retains much in the way of contextual depth.
The market for driving games is sharply divided, Rollings and Adams suggest, between those who are happy with an enjoyable if very approximate simulation of something like the real driving experience and those who demand a much closer modelling of the real physics of vehiclehandling at speed. You cannot beat the machine, but you might hang on long enough to set a new high score. High-fantasy offers its own array of fabulous beasts, from the obligatory unicorns and dragons to more inventive creations or combinations. Questions of graphical realism are considered in Chapter 3. London ; New York : I.