Mr. Efficiency versus The Natural

I’ve started playing GTA IV again (for research purposes) and it’s reminding me of an eternal battle. The battle between the forces of acting natural and being efficient. In a nutshell, there are many games in which there’s the option to do things faster, but this conflicts with doing things in a way which “fits in” with the game world around you.

An illustrative case is the date I just went on in the game. I picked the fine lady up from her house and, with me driving her car for some reason, we set off for the carnival. Now the tension arises. Do I drive there at top speed to get the “mission” done with, or do I stop at the lights, drive sensitively, and listen to her prattle on in her flat voice?

In other words, I feel a responsibility to the fiction of the world to behave in a way that “fits”. But, on the other hand, because the “interactive bits” really lie and the ends of these drives (though driving itself is nice, too), I kind of want to get where I’m going. Further, of course, I can just drive their recklessly – the game pretty much doesn’t “notice” it in any way, doesn’t say “hey, you’re breaking the fiction!” It’s just that I hold myself accountable.

The same thing happened when we got out of the car to walk to the bowling alley. Yeah, I could walk, painfully slowly, down the boardwalk. Or I could run. And, in fact, if you do run, she runs too, so she gets into the spirit of things. But, on the other hand, who, except for extreme bowling enthusiasts, get out of their car and then run to the alley? Not many, if any. So again, it’s break the fiction or go painfully slowly.

The sad truth is that eventually Mr. Efficiency Wins out – the narrative is leached from moment to moment actions more and more as they become, as I wrote about yesterday, “just” a game.

18 May 2010
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