Thursday, November 15, 2012

Spatial and Social Realism in Dishonored

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This week at PopMatters, I write about some of Dishonored's more true to life features.

Realism itself is a strange topic for video games for few reasons. First, it's hard to decide on a single definition of the word: we can find realism in visual representations, sound, physics systems, social simulations, etc. Secondly, is it even a goal worth chasing? Is making something that simulates the real meaningful beyond the simple challenge of doing it. One of the reason I likes games is that they allow for experimentation within systems that simply couldn't exist in the real world.

But that's a longer discussion for another day. The point of my article is that, despite the fact that you can teleport, read minds, and control a horde of rats, Dishonored manages to resemble the real world in a few crucial ways. This is mostly due to how rich the game is from environmental and storytelling perspectives. Dishonored is full of people and places that feel like their exist for more than the player's entertainment. Everything is understated in a way that makes discovering things special and more satisfying that having it served up to you on a silver platter.

I don't do this very often, but I'd recommend that you play Dishonored with the quest markers off. They default to on, but I feel like it makes it too easy to simply critical-path your way through the game, thereby missing the things that make the game special. I'm hesitant to say that there's a "right" way to play the game, but throwing away your in-game GPS will certainly help expose you to the game's interesting uses of spatial and social realism.

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