Are immersive simulations the final frontier?

Should divided genres still exist, or should videogames be, or at least aim for complete simulations?

The whole point, for conceiving and using a metre of interaction, is to quantify how many factors we consider when we do an action inside an interactable story. Characters, objects, the world taken as a whole, the story and the intrigue, everything can be interactable. Each element belongs to a field of knowledge: from physics and mathematics, to logics, literature, philosophy, ethics. Each of these fields also happens to belong to a genre of videogames. Physics is the reign of Action games, but so is mathematics, although there's also roleplaying games, sharing the same reign; logics are in adventure puzzle games, so on and so forth.

Is it legitimate to ask for a single videogame to rule all?

take a look at this lengthy conversation during a reunion of game designer gurus, featuring the great Prof. Warren Spector.…/

An immersive simulation, then, is an interactive story with great freedom: the characters fight, talk, examine environments. It's a videogame genre with multiple genres inside, a simulation (if a simulation is reconstructed reality, a good degree of complexity, which is obtained artfully "mixing and combining" genres, makes infact for a reality in a fictional world, and that is a videogame). Deus Ex gave characters the possibility to solve situations in logical ways or physical ways depending on ethical factors to be considered inside the story, and the whole world's history. As we said it's a game that rules all reigns, a game that dominates all fields of knowledge, because it's able to interact with all of them. There are a few games that did that, i.e. Fallout 1 and 2, and a few others. They can be called hybrids, though some people dislike the concept of mixing things, they think of unnatural results. So, yes, let's stick with simulations.

So if players usually think that mixing genres sounds unnatural, immersive simulations work in our heads, though it's the same thing. It should also be noted that back in the 90's, the first half especially, most games were hybrids: designers would freely and naturally mix elements of the point & click adventures with the other genres, action, role-playing games or strategy (i'm thinking Dune, and for action Shadow of the beast). This happened because "adventures" were the leading genre in PC, and because an "adventure" was understood as a "generic" (not entirely a genre) aspect of a game that should be present everywhere: the examination and use of "items" is a natural part of an interactive game. It's only now that genres are perceived as isolated chambers, which is why it feels so weird when designers experiment variation of gameplay trying to remain pure. And it's also interesting that "we" matured a blindness to it: when we look at old games, we can't see that masterly blending, we see even more fixed genres than today. We're blind.

But the question is: should all games go toward this frontier?

Instead, shouldn't games keep offering specific entertainment sides for specific moods, so as to not occupy too much space in our brains? our already worn off brains, tired from a hard day and night at work.

And in this case, isn't our universal metre of interaction, just, unnecessary? Because a simple type of interaction, limited and small, focused only on one element, can just be GOOD and fun. Like simple tactics in Blizzard's Overwatch, or just some skill in Destiny 2, strategy in Battlefield, and so on.

It's an important question, its answer could determine the future of interactive story-telling, and of course the legitimacy of measuring interaction as we do.

So: for the second question, the necessity of measurement, the answer is clearly positive; we can consider inferior degrees of interactivity (see the degrees "chart" below for clarification) for evaluations, because establishing the quantity of interaction is an impartial value. Just because the result of the evaluation is a low degree, it doesn't mean anything. The judgment can be given afterwards by readers according to their own criteria, a democracy of judgement, a judge who asks for a referendum after the trial. A good thing. But measure is for measure only.

As for the first question, whether it is just to demand that all games move toward the goal of more complexity and simulation, and whether it's instead acceptable that most games keep offering more limited, but also intuitive, and simpler gameplay entertainment:

Attempt #1. On the Enterprise of Star Trek the holodeck is the equivalent of videogaming. In it the crew interacts like in a simulation: they can do everything. But there are also training programs for shooting and melee practice. So this example doesn't help.

Attempt #2. The whole world is against videogames! The gratuitous violence clogging most of them desensitizes people. The repetitive of one type of action in many action-strictly games, so the type of games we're considering in this article, where the player shoots or kicks and punches things endlessly, can have negative consequences on users whose minds aren't "shielded" yet. These games are simple and enjoyable, but are despicable in another way, because they eliminate human and ethical factors, stripped off for a single reason: "it's only a game", intended to stay simple and immediate, visceral, which efficiently keeps videogaming from being taken seriously. But the world of videogaming doesn't care: first of all they consider these games art in their own way, and more importantly, if a kid is smart, he will understand the message of contrary to violence hidden paradoxically in the exaggerated violence; if the kid's not smart, his parents are to be blamed, or school incapable of educating him, or the society abandoning him to his issues, why blame videogames? They AREN'T to be blamed, but these games sure don't do anything to educate those "conscience impaired" children, they just demand that they have one, who cares if they don't, not our fault, they "wash their hands" of the matter, it's someone else's problem. It's a bad scenario, then: one side hates the other because it can't understand the other's point. "Games are violent and dangerous!" "No, they're simple and liberating experiences, you just don't understand their ironical and underlined message". This example doesn't help either, because it's a tie.

»pause« Let's reflect: what else is there? People don't need to consider, so interact with, many objects and factors to have fun, or to increase their perception, intuition, skills. An action game, simple and good, like say, Dark Souls, does little but its little is able, in another way, maybe to train the brain's activity indirectly, even though it doesn't expand the brain in all those factors we described in Deus Ex. But it makes the brain work too, in a lower degree of interaction seeable in our universal chart. Perhaps the right statement most would say is "less is more", a good game like Dark Souls doesn't let you interact with a lot of things, but its simple core mechanic stimulates small but interesting parts of our brain. Isn't that ingenious? That's good enough, no?

Is that it? We just accept relativity, points of view? Everyone do what he likes in this "each for himself" jungle?

I don't like this conclusion: we are an evolved society, not tribes trying to survive. We should devote our lives to better ourselves, guided by good principles, and philosophy exists to provide them. First of all let's remember some of the pioneers in the videogame industry, like the two heads of Origin company (We create worlds, anyone?) Chris Roberts and Richard Garriott. They are veterans, they paved the road for future generations and it's no wonder to me that they're both bent today not only on making simulations, but even online (whether they do it succesfully or not doesn't concern me, what matters is the principle); to me this reveals how a person, who's experienced game designing all his life, inevitably wishes to see videogames evolve in complexity, because whoever loves something, wants to see it grow. Videogames can't become "actually" better if they remain simply action games, simply strategy games, simply platform games. It's impaired growth. Regarding my little obvious bluff before, If you develop a small part of your brain in one of those stimulating, visceral and ingenious little action games, that small part of your brain will squash the other parts like a balloon but made of your brain sack. To develop your brain, you need a product that synergically stimulates ALL of it.

And now there's a final statement. It requires an axiom deduced by a polarity we mentioned earlier: we are not isolated monkeys, we are mankind, we (should) do what is best for our species. The goal of our species, biologically and ethically is (probably) unarguably one: freedom. Freedom in biology is the ability of conscious thoughts achieved with the growth of a neo-cortex, occurring when our brain evolved. The ability to say cogito ergo sum is to be human, thinking is knowing: "nosce te ipsum", know yourself.

When you're in a videogame and are able to choose your course of action, a violent approach, a stealth approach, a puzzle approach, like in Deus Ex, you achieve freedom, which means videogames too have evolved.

There's nothing else to say: evolution is mandatory because it liberates everything. To refuse it is to refuse ourselves, even in something as naïve as videogames, or maybe especially because of it, because hobbies define us.

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