The Problem Is Choice

Every game has this sweet spot in which the graphics engine performs and presents itself optimally on the screen. Obviously, those are the very same spots from where the screenshots for marketing are taken.

The thing is, the more freedom the player is given to, the smaller the sweet spot becomes, relatively speaking. At the dawn of the video games, one actually couldn’t take a bad screenshot of the game, since practically all the screenshots were “good”. Games back then just looked pretty much the same in all possible situations, like Pong or Space Invaders, and that’s because of the lack of freedom player had in the game.

With freedom, comes not responsibility, but a choice. Player can choose to fly low in Tom Clancy’s HAWX and expose the weaknesses of the graphics engine, or otherwise act so that her dealings break the game. This freedom to choose is the weakness and the asset of the medium at the same time, the weakness being the impossibility to merge total freedom and storytelling, which is why we still have the archaic cut-scenes around.

So, it was the 3D –graphics that introduced this issue with freedom, because the latitude of the player became exponential in comparison to 2D –space in which the objects were always in fixed distance of the screen. The player could now wander off from the sweet spot to examine objects up close and to see the flaws and limitations the graphics engine posed. The situation is like getting up from a ghost train ride to see which material the coulisses are made of.

The absolute freedom given to people hardly ever leads to preferable situations, in video games as in real life. Today’s game designers have to take account more than ever, that people will exercise the freedom they are given to and take a closer look at what the designers have created, and (in worst case scenario) post the glitches and intentionally ugly screenshots online to diss the game or the system it’s on. And to take that freedom away with invisible walls, for instance, is like asking a verbal abuse and beating from the online community.

And who can live with oneself after that?