There are a lot of things going on in the world right now. There is uncertainly in Palestine, the Iranians are desperately trying to build a bomb, Japan is under 4-5 meters of snow, a Surpeme Court candidate is undergoing committee hearings, Angelina Jolie really is pregnant, the US economy is blistering, the Iraq project slogs onwards and Hollywood has made a few good movies, for a change.
But that’s not what interests me at this point.
I am a computer game junkie. I love a well crafted game. I am not a console fiend (PS2, Xbox, etc). I like a game with a thick instruction manual, a lot of options and preferably a compelling storyline.
There are a lot of games which fit this bill. Some are infamous and some are unknown. Doom, Warcraft, Syberia, Thief and Phantasmagoria were all ground breaking, compelling and well done games. They easily equaled any movie experience that Hollywood has to offer. In fact, the recent trend in “bonus material” DVDs would support the fact that the public wants a deep and rich entertainment experience. Anyone who has bought a DVD of their favorite movie is usually treated to tens of hours of additional footage, deleted scenes, interviews, games and a litany of extra goodies.
The movie industry is suffering a rapid decline in box office receipts as many folks simply opt out of the movie going experience in order to enjoy alternative entertainment experiences. Many home entertainment systems are theater quality. More people have high speed internet access and use their computers as much for entertainment as for work. The gaming industry has already surpassed the movie industry in total revenues.
But I digress.
My present obsession is a game. It is an extension of EA Game’s great series Battlefield 1942. It is called Battlefield 2. Now, for the sole reader of this blog, aside from myself, you may say big deal?
And yet I would say that the gaming industry has taken a radical step forward with the development of this game. For starters it looks unbelievably real. The game has a superb cinematic quality. Secondly, it is smart. The developers spent a lot of time engineering the AI (artificial intelligence) of the game. Your computer opponents will act VERY intelligently, resulting in the player losing more often than not. Finally, it is accurate. The game portrays a world in which three powerful factions battle over land and resources. They are equipped with current hardware and weaponry. The factions, in my opinion, represent the three cultural forces of the present world (China, the United States and the Middle East Coalition – loosely interpreted as radical Islam).
There are flaws. It tends to sanitize combat. There are no civilians to get in the way, the fact that a player resurrects (respawns) infinitely defeats the lesson of war as a terrible, final option, and the lack of the serious environmental effects (rain, clouds, weapon failure) underplays these roles in battle.
Nonetheless, the game has many realistic aspects. The game is so realistic that I would not recommend it to young children for play at all. It can quickly transport a player into this created realm of conflict and mayhem, without the attendant sucking chest wound.
I believe Battlefield 2 has changed the playing field for gamers as it uses both the processing power of graphics cards and CPUs to evoke a compelling realistic environment for the player. I predict we will see more products featuring this robust aspect of “world immersion”. Consumers will be able to purchase games which allow them to interact, in a cinematic and realistic, fashion with their favorite stories.
There are already many online sites and games which provide some of these attractions. However, they lack the stark realism conjured up by EA’s latest offering. Get ready folks, the appeal of the construct is increasing the strength of its siren call.
Frighteningly, the world of the virtual may truly eclipse the world of the real.