Ambiance Up, Music Down

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I like immersion in games. In World of Warcraft, you were allowed to adjust audio sliders for music, ambiance, and combat/interface sounds. One of my favorite things to do would be to slide everything down except for the sounds of my character and the ambient sounds of the game world. It made the game feel much more satisfying as an emulation of reality (ignoring the fact that WoW’s art style is heavily stylized on purpose). There were wondrous environments to explore there, aided by the sounds of crickets, birds, tumbling wood, sand storms, or rainfall. One of my favorite parts of this was how it gave the game more emotion by removing noise, instead of adding it.

Life is often silent, and I can remember many occasions being alone in some thick forest, casting out the reel of my fishing line, and just listening to the hum of the developer’s vision. It’s art unlike any other. I think I could appreciate it in a big way because I also liked camping, hiking, and exploring. The game allowed you to experience that sense of exploration; most importantly, it still let a feeling of wonder fall on you, as though you were exploring it yourself.

There’s something to be said about the desire to make games more life-like. By making a playable environment with elements of reality, you’re essentially removing the physical or mental work that goes along with attaining those experiences while still providing the feelings of being there. Some games succeed at this more than others, usually with role-playing games capping the top of the list. Other times, fans have modified games that already contain elements of exploration in order to make the visual experience more pleasurable for the user.

Below are two such examples of fan-made realism (click the images for larger pictures). The left picture is from the Grand Theft Auto 4 (GTA4) realism mod (link). The picture on the right is for a realistic Minecraft mod (link).

GTA4 Realism Mod   Minecraft Realism Mod

These games, and others that try to further immerse the player, are quite different in their original intents. GTA4 is a triple-A title about a man involved in gangs, violence, and money in a fictional city based on New York. Minecraft is an indie-made pseudo-dungeon crawler about gathering resources and building up your environment. Both of these games excel in turning the environment into a living world where the user is able to connect with people, places, and emotions.

Turning up the ambiance isn’t the only way to experience a game in more depth. It just serves as a lesson in that direction. Turning down the music can often even detract (i.e. don’t take the title as law). Trying to connect more closely to a game is something I would suggest to everyone at least once. It’s similar to the way you can get lost in a good novel or start crying during a compelling movie. Yet, it’s so much more experiential due to the medium. Experiencing a world, virtual or otherwise, in a new way is a great way to see life from a different perspective and to reflect on what it is about reality or virtual worlds that truly resonates with you.

Videogames in every aspect of life?

To be honest when I saw this video (http://www.todaysbigthing.com/2011/02/15) I thought it was hilarious that someone could take a videogame quite so literally. But it got me thinking, videogames are useful for practically EVERY type of learning, even outside the classroom.

For example when Eric Klopfer was speaking today about how mobile learning can  be applied to many aspects of biology, it got me thinking about taking these types of games outside the classroom as presented by Jerry Heneghan.

Specifically, it would be beneficial to play games similar to MarioKart (minus the shells) so that beginner students can get a taste of what it feels like to be behind the wheel and truly learn the rules of the road before hand. Would it really be so crazy to offer simulations or games for soon-to-be parents to learn how to properly take care of a new born? Or maybe even use a videogame to teach new athletes the rules and proper formations for certain sports?

With my interest in medicine, I think that the benefits found in learning through videogames may be easily applied to doctor/patient relationships. What if a patient could play a game enacting the surgery they are to undergo? Or play a game like the sims which teaches them how to appropriately practice recovery exercises? The former sounds a bit morbid, but it seems that information is power. Often times when a doctor is explaining a complicated procedure to a patient, it is easy for the patient to become lost in the charts, one dimensional diagrams and stats. In my own experience as a patient, all I could picture in my head when a surgery technique was being explained was the game of Operation. What if patients could be walked through the procedure via a game to see exactly what steps will be taken to help their ailment? Or even further, what if they could compare procedures to see which fits their preferences best (ie, invasive or not)?

Besides, wouldn’t it be great to have a game for EVERYTHING?

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