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View Full Version : "Crimes Against Mimesis" - Aritifice and Realism in TR



Xxx_Lara_xxX
2nd Nov 2005, 02:51
I found this article on principles of game design -- an analysis of many of the problems common to interactive fiction puzzles, and the possible steps a game designer might take to remedy them -- which helps explain why some TR games are outstanding while others boring and barely playable (AOD, Las Vegas level in TR2gold) even though all games in the series feature the same character and a similar basic plot

"Successful fiction is an imitation or "mimesis" of reality, be it this world's or an alternate world's. Well-written fiction leads the reader to temporarily enter and believe in the reality of that world. A crime against mimesis is any aspect of an game that breaks the coherence of its fictional world as a representation of reality.

My remarks are aimed at game writers and players who judge an interactive fiction game as a work of fiction, not merely a game, and want to know how to write good games that will also be good fiction.

That being said, the prosecution is now pleased to present the first three crimes against mimesis, which have to do with violations of context:

1. Objects Out of Context
"This is a tidy, well-appointed kitchen. On the table you see a chainsaw."

The object out of context is one of the screaming red flags that indicates that a game's puzzle has taken precedence over the maintenance of a coherent atmosphere. The game author needs the player to pick up the chainsaw for later use, and has dropped it in any old place where the player can find it.

This is fine for the gameplay, but damaging to the fictional integrity of the game. In any coherent world, things are generally where they are supposed to be. If they are not, there is a reason for it; and the work of fiction further demands that out-of-place objects or happenings have some significance that the reader (player) can guess at, or find out."

TR examples: In AOD, Lara finds large saw above an ancient stone stella with an angel carved on it. Lara cuts through the stella with the saw which causes the saw to swing into the air and cut into an air conditioning vent. She has to get respirators from a locked cabinet that suddenly becomes unlocked when the time is right. When she talks to Francine, she steals a wristwatch directly behind her and Francine says nothing. Then, she suddenly finds an earth scanning X-ray machine next to the Louvre. Even in a tomb raider game it all makes no sense.

"2. Context out of context

While the atmosphere common to these games and their descendants has a rambling, Munchhausenish charm, it leaves much to be desired in the way of fictional coherence. Today's adventure game authors are very careful to place each game within a single genre. Players are alert to incoherencies...Today's game designer might want to look beyond the genre in organizing the game, and not rely too heavily on the [horror/adventure/spy] genre, and too little on the specific plot and background of the game, to provide a context for its array of characters and creatures.

TR common mistake: Oh since this is a tomb raider game, its okay to put mummies and artifacts around every corner. Even the nonsensical ancient steam engine contraption in Europe under the hall of seasons is guarded by a supernatural Roman centurion skeleton (modern day france/Roman centurion 200 AD/ Industrial Revolution) And Lara can kill/paralyze a ghost with shotgun shells? And in the worlds most famous museum, she finds a large passageway hidden behind the Mona Lisa? While trying to solve a murder?

"3. Puzzles Out of Context.

Most of the problem-solving in games is an imitation of the kind of problem-solving we do in dealing with the real world -- or would do, if we led lives as interesting as those of the average adventure-game protagonist. Objects have to be manipulated, physical obstacles have to be overcome, people and animals have to be persuaded or evaded or defeated in a fight.
And then there are...

Mazes. Riddles. Towers of Hanoi. Cryptograms, anagrams, acrostics. Etcetera.

These are the kinds of problems we normally play with to escape dealing with the real world and its problems. So, when one of these "set-piece" puzzles comes up in a game, we are in danger of being rudely reminded that the fictional motivation for the game is itself only a trivial diversion.

Instead of calling attention to the artificiality of the whole situation, a riddle or maze or anagram should have a more or less realistic role in the context of the game, serving to diminish rather than enhance the sense that the objects-and-locations "action" of the game is itself a contrivance."

TR examples: The artificial quest to retrieve a box from a Parisian disco by raiding the lighting system. The hopelessly boring contrivance of the storm drains, where you have to turn the six valves with lights to flood a sewer which allows her to get to another room to blow a hole in the side of the Louvre. The even more hopelessly pointless contrivance of the "ancient steam engine" and its skeleton guard and valves.


"4. Lock-and-Key, and Four Ways Out

The solver starts out with an object, or "key", and has to find a place where this key can be used to gain access to another "key", which in turn allows access to another ... and so on, until the final goal is reached.

Sometimes, a lock-and-key puzzle makes no pretensions to be anything else, as with the red, blue and yellow keys in "Doom." But more often, a game will keep the basic logic of the lock-and-key puzzle, but use other objects to implement it. Disguising "locks-and-keys" as real-world objects may superficially contribute to the realism of the atmosphere, but once the player figures out what is going on, the artifice of the one-on-one mapping between objects and problems becomes even more jarring.

Give the goat a tin can, and it will cough up a red handkerchief; wrap the handkerchief around your head, and the gypsies will let you into the cave; use the lantern you found in the cave to get past the giant mole; and so on. These pat, lock-and-key solutions don't really do justice to the complex process of real-world problem-solving, and after a while they get boring even as abstract puzzles."

TR: too many to mention. Push the block, "I feel stronger now," open the door, pull the lever, lifts the car up, pull another lever, opens passageway under car...


"All the characters in a game, even minor ones, should be able to pass the book editor's eternal question, motivation: "What motivates the dwarf to throw an axe at you?"

TR: Why do the henchmen attack Lara? How do they know who she is? Why does she have to kill so many people? Why does she become so rude and obnoxious in later games? ;)

http://www.geocities.com/aetus_kane/writing/cam.html

Master
2nd Nov 2005, 05:41
LOL!! I have a few comments;
!.It's so true!
2.Stated the obvious!
3.It's so weird that people tear apart games intead of taking them for what they are; "hey,this kitchen is spotless. Oh,will you look at that? Some careless fool left a chainsaw on the kitchen.I must grab it and defend myself agaist the horde of zombies breaking down the front door!" :D
Q: Why are these people trying to kill Lara?
A:Who cares! It's fun sending them packing! :thumbsup:
Games are meant to be fun.
Einstein can split an atom but I betcha he couldn't figure out Mario! ;)
Games are meant to be fun,some games are so hard that the fun factor is non existent.
Land of the dead:There is no real plot,you just go around and kill zombie after zombie. :p
I'm sorry if I'm reading too much into this but sounds like the person trying to make sense out of something that's not suppose to make sense. I do agree on some of the things he said though!

WraithStar
2nd Nov 2005, 16:49
For me personally, if a game doesn't make sense, it gets boring really quickly. So, I agree with what the article was saying about how every aspect of the game should at least try to fit into some overall context. If I have to keep asking myself, "What is *that* doing there?" or "Oh, come on now, what does *that* have to do with anything?" then I tend to lose interest in the game.

Master
2nd Nov 2005, 20:20
For me personally, if a game doesn't make sense, it gets boring really quickly. So, I agree with what the article was saying about how every aspect of the game should at least try to fit into some overall context. If I have to keep asking myself, "What is *that* doing there?" or "Oh, come on now, what does *that* have to do with anything?" then I tend to lose interest in the game.


What bothers me is the fact that once you enter an area you racking you brain trying to figure out why the game lead you this way you are not able to access none of the five doors that looms in front of you or another open area but your're stopped by an invisible wall until a cut scene plays or a certain event takes place then magically the door(s) are unlocked/open or the invisible wall is no longer there. Also when things reset themselves, for an example; In Tomb Raider or Resident Evil you have to move things around to get or do certain things but when you leave the area and come back things are as when you originally entered. Some games even relied on this,"if you mess up the puzzle just leave and come back and it'll be reset!" If that's not realistic I don't know what is. Then there's the thing where doors close by themselves, Splinter Cell suffers from this and the above. So item placement doesn't really bother me at least not as much as the stuff I mentioned above.
I still take into consideration it's only a game and I got my money's worth! :D

Mangar The Dark
2nd Nov 2005, 20:55
for an example; In Tomb Raider or Resident Evil you have to move things around to get or do certain things but when you leave the area and come back things are as when you originally entered. Some games even relied on this,"if you mess up the puzzle just leave and come back and it'll be reset!"

I don't mind this. Okay, it's not realistic, but neither is a character who is proportioned like Lara and who can do everything that Lara does.
If the puzzle resets itself to keep the situation possible, then I see nothing wrong with it. I would much prefer that than if the game basically said, "Ha-ha! You screwed up! Now you have to reload." Ultimately games are supposed to be fun, and realism should come in a distant second. If some realism has to be sacrificed in order to keep things fun, then I think that's okay.

Xxx_Lara_xxX
2nd Nov 2005, 23:35
LOL! You guys are funny :D

I am planning to submit a research proposal to to the government for a large research grant in order to scientificially study these important questions. I think $140,000 should be sufficient. With this money, I will purchase an Xbox 360 and a PS3 as well as a Nintendo Gamecube and the new games, empirically analyse and scrutinize them -- my meaningful contribution to society :D

Actually, the part I especially liked about this essay was the emphasis on "writing good games that will also be good fiction." That is something Metal Gear Solid excels at, a coherent narrative with well developed characters. *Some* people take games way too seriously (such as, ahem, me) but what strikes me as very true about this essay- its obvious, but easier said than done! And very difficult to keep a story, objects and characters coherent and realistic without resorting to stereotypes, cliches, or a blend of game elements that make it seem fabricated and artificial.

Trinity34
3rd Nov 2005, 00:24
Thanks Lara for posting. Another discussion! :)


How real does a game have to be to be popular? This is tough to answer because everyone has an opinion and opinions vary widely. A lot of peope loved TR1 but look at the storyline... mutant aliens?? How real is that? :p But then there are games like The Sims which are very popular.

Raven
3rd Nov 2005, 00:45
1. Objects Out of Context
"This is a tidy, well-appointed kitchen. On the table you see a chainsaw."

Well, objects in unlikely places have always been part of TR, I suppose...I seem to remember someone advancing the theory that ancient tombs had medpacks and ammo lying around because Winston had been in first and dropped numerous items to give his employer a helping hand :p



TR examples: In AOD, Lara finds large saw above an ancient stone stella with an angel carved on it. Lara cuts through the stella with the saw which causes the saw to swing into the air and cut into an air conditioning vent. She has to get respirators from a locked cabinet that suddenly becomes unlocked when the time is right. When she talks to Francine, she steals a wristwatch directly behind her and Francine says nothing. Then, she suddenly finds an earth scanning X-ray machine next to the Louvre. Even in a tomb raider game it all makes no sense.

While some of these were distinctly odd, I don't see the problem with an earth scanner in an archaeological dig area?


TR: Why do the henchmen attack Lara? How do they know who she is? Why does she have to kill so many people?

I assumed the henchmen had been sent out to get Lara by the Cabal (or whichever adversary she was up against in older games...)

Interesting article nonetheless.

Master
3rd Nov 2005, 06:15
Does anyone remember nadia turning into a bat? was it realistic? No! Was it fun defeating her? OH YEAH!!!!!!!! :D.
This thread also goes along with your other thread Lara X; "Should dead enemies fade or remain?" because that's hardly realistic and Manger,I can see where you're coming from but I was just trying to follow the flow of the essay which is about realism in games...
Metal Gear Solid is like an interactive book and they depend heavily on the dialogue to drive the story not events.
Games are meant to be fun and entertaining. What is fun to one may not be fun to another,example;I thought TR1 & 2 were great but I thought TR 3 was lacking and 4 & 5 were down right boring! RPG's are really boring to me because the action is done for you!

Xxx_Lara_xxX
4th Nov 2005, 01:15
Maybe Natla didn't turn into a bat, although I thought so too the first time I played it!! :D

what happened is that as she was falling down into the pit one of the bat mutant creatures from the ledges caught her and saved her --- if you look closely, you can see its arms and legs wrapped around Natla's shoulders and waist, Also in the action figures that came out, the natla doll has an optional mutant bat creature whose arms can slip around her shoulders. Or maybe she was a demon after all!

TR1 is way fun and has unexpected moments, but the attention to tiny details are there. Whether you are playing it just for fun or paying close attention, the game is remarkably consistent within the rules of its own environment :thumbsup:

"What is fun to one may not be fun to another,example;I thought TR1 & 2 were great but I thought TR 3 was lacking and 4 & 5 were down right boring!"

I totally agree, the deeper Zen-like question here is why? Why are the first ones better? What is the soul of TR? Deep thoughts! :p :rolleyes:

LaraAngelOfDarkness
4th Nov 2005, 03:53
^ I don't ever remember a Natla action figure being release, cause I would have it other wise. :D

Master
4th Nov 2005, 04:47
^ I don't ever remember a Natla action figure being release, cause I would have it other wise. :D



I thought Natla was a cool boss.
Yeah, Lara X. That's deep!

Tell me something Lara X; are you a hardcore gamer or a casual gamer?
I'd ask you your age but that's kind of personal. Anyway,it's kind of funny you posted that because for a while now I was thinking not just the intrgrity
of the game but of the gamer (actually alot more of the gamer).
Is the gamer a hardcore or casual?Are they single or married? Children?
Do they stay loyal to one game or are there several? What drives them to play games?
These questions and more come to mind. Games are not just for kids anymore!
So you see how this fits into the essay?
Instead of a game how about the person that plays the game as well?

Xxx_Lara_xxX
4th Nov 2005, 05:40
I am probably not your average gamer, I am 67 yrs young, grandmother of three. Now that I am on retirement TR is my life, because my husband has been in a wheelchair ever since his second stroke. However, when the ol' rheumatoid starts up in me wrist and joints I can barely hold my grandson's PS2 controller :( Even for a grandma I'm 'with it' though, I listen 50 Cent and Ciara like you youngsters, I would even try some breakdancing if not for my bum knee :D

Master
4th Nov 2005, 06:22
I am probably not your average gamer, I am 67 yrs young, grandmother of three. Now that I am on retirement TR is my life, because my husband has been in a wheelchair ever since his second stroke. However, when the ol' rheumatoid starts up in me wrist and joints I can barely hold my grandson's PS2 controller :( Even for a grandma I'm 'with it' though, I listen 50 Cent and Ciara like you youngsters, I would even try some breakdancing if not for my bum knee :D


That's cool! I love playing games with my son...He's 6 and loves Tomb Raider! ;) I'm 33 and of course a husband and a father of 4. My wife and I just had our 4th child,3rd girl :eek: and we named her Lara :D
What drives me to play games is;I refuse to grow up :)

susan
4th Nov 2005, 06:46
I am probably not your average gamer, I am 67 yrs young, grandmother of three. :eek: :eek: From how you speak on the forum, I thought you were in your 20's or 30's for sure. Wow. :eek: :D

That's one of the great things about TR, it seems to be a game for all ages.

Raven
4th Nov 2005, 22:57
I am probably not your average gamer, I am 67 yrs young, grandmother of three. Now that I am on retirement TR is my life, because my husband has been in a wheelchair ever since his second stroke. However, when the ol' rheumatoid starts up in me wrist and joints I can barely hold my grandson's PS2 controller :( Even for a grandma I'm 'with it' though, I listen 50 Cent and Ciara like you youngsters, I would even try some breakdancing if not for my bum knee :D

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm....... :rolleyes:

Sophia Leigh
5th Nov 2005, 07:09
That's cool! I love playing games with my son...He's 6 and loves Tomb Raider! ;) I'm 33 and of course a husband and a father of 4. My wife and I just had our 4th child,3rd girl :eek: and we named her Lara :D
What drives me to play games is;I refuse to grow up :)

I suggested naming our daughter Lara but my husband wouldn't let me :D


I am probably not your average gamer, I am 67 yrs young, grandmother of three. Now that I am on retirement TR is my life, because my husband has been in a wheelchair ever since his second stroke. However, when the ol' rheumatoid starts up in me wrist and joints I can barely hold my grandson's PS2 controller Even for a grandma I'm 'with it' though, I listen 50 Cent and Ciara like you youngsters, I would even try some breakdancing if not for my bum knee
I think that is really cool that you are a grandma and play Tomb Raider :thumbsup: , there seems to be a few grandparents who play Tomb Raider :)