The ever-insightful Gus Mastrapa points to one of the central pleasures in videogames in a recent colum:
We don’t realize it, but our everyday lives are full of limitations. Our daily rituals take place in a narrow channel walled by invisible barriers. When you take a stroll through your neighborhood you’re surrounded on all sides by off-limit space. And if I remember the life of a teenager accurately, those aren’t the only ways that choice is removed from the average American teen’s life.
Climbing ladders on the side of buildings, hoping down manholes, exploring the homes and computers of strangers–these are all the kinds of things that would get you killed, or arrested in real life, but form some of the basic tropes of exploration in games.
Mastrapa aptly blends how some of the most fun things in a game are really things that you could do today, but just seem a little too risky–like climbing that fence around an abandon building to see what’s inside.
I find this parallelism between games and life particularly apt since it fits well with my notion of fun as something that both is and isn’t what it seems. Maybe blowing the head off a zombie is exciting because it is so strange. But jumping a backyard fence in a game is that close to something you might do this weekend.
Games might be at their best when they remind us of how normal they are, and give us a quick escape from the normalcy.