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Feature: Sword & Poker And How Video Games Address Time

Former Edge magazine editor Margaret Robertson extracts five minutes of play with Gaia's iPhone game Sword & Poker, leading to a deeper examination of time in v
Former Edge magazine editor Margaret Robertson extracts five minutes of play with Gaia's iPhone poker-RPG hybrid Sword & Poker, leading to a deeper examination of time in video games. "I've missed a lot of [train] stops thanks to five minutes-es with Sword & Poker that turned out to be a little more than five minutes," writes Robertson in a new Gamasutra feature. "And it is no doubt because it's decently balanced and enjoyably nerve-wracking, with enough strategy to keep my brain engaged and enough random treats to keep my dopamine levels topped up," Robertson says. "But it's also because, the more I think about it, it's a bloody miracle we're able to keep any kind of track at all of the real passage of time while we play," she continues. "We still have a wonderfully vague understanding of what underpins our sense of time. It seems to be determined by several bits of the brain, and by internal, circadian rhythms as well as general external stimuli, which it turns out are called 'zeitgeber,' a word that would have done very nicely thank you as a Shin Megami Tensei subtitle." "It's also thought to be highly connected to the degree of change that you're observing: the more things stay the same, the more the clock crawls," she observes. Robertson says games encompass at leat seven types of "time travel," including the ability to turn back time, suspension of time and time that moves at a different speed than real life. "Time is, for a large part, change," says Robertson. "Is this, perhaps, the charge to lay at gaming's door? Games are, after all, in a large part change engines. Do their patterns of change over-write the natural circadian checks and zeitgeberian balances? If only it was that simple." Robertson delves deeper into the Sword & Poker, and closely examines how video games deal with time in the full Gamasutra feature, available now.

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