The Treachery of Images

Regular readers know that I rarely include pictures in my posts. I am not a visual person. My mental world is verbal and quantitative, and embellishment usually strikes me as willful distraction preluding deception. I write about mechanics and gameplay and seem to be made suspicious by great graphics because what are you trying to hide?

I am unusual in this respect. I have poor vision and am somewhere in the bottom ten percent for mental imagery. Those with better sensory gifts may instead see that “embellishment” as the whole point, with the game mechanics there as a framework for the aesthetic experience.

Meanwhile, I see the mechanics and the interplay of systems while I am playing. The numbers are there like a physical presence, and operational efficiency is to me as aesthetics are to others. Systems designers attest to similar experiences. We may scarcely notice clipping issues with the new shoulderpads, but we know exactly where the developers are coming from when a DoT has its duration increased by 8.6% and its DPS decreased by 7.92%. “Finally!”

The analytical mindframe sees things differently. I analyze the components of an experience while I am experiencing it. I can’t not. A new boss fight is, amongst other things, an exploration of certain mechanics, and you can follow their interplay, see what the developers intend you to learn from this content, and sometimes even see the seams like the slightly incongruous visions of multiple people working on the same project or where one piece of content is intentionally in dialogue with another.

If you have ever wondered why people weight problems differently, different neurology is a factor. We are biologically wired to care about different things.

: Zubon

7 thoughts on “The Treachery of Images”

  1. For me statistics in a game are not what drives me. They are a means to an end to achieve an end result be that taking down a boss or efficiently killing mobs resulting in a shiny new piece of armor. Your blog header has a graphic of Tequatl and Guild Wars 2 is a very visual game and one of its main features is its art style.

    I would have thought someone with poor eyesight would have enhanced mental imagery to make up for that deficit?

    Interesting post!

  2. This may be why KTR works so well as a duo between you and Ravious. Yes, I know it’s a collective but we don’t see enough of Ethic, Julian and the others to make much of an impact.

    For me, the embellishment is indeed the whole point. MMOs are sightseeing. The mechanics are the plane or train that gets me there.

  3. Absolutely. I happen to be visual and analytical, so my blog is strewn with images and commentary.

    Poor with numbers though, so I would not be able to tell you the difference between 8% or 15% if it came up and shot me, it would just feel like something had changed. I rely on others better equipped neurologically to tell me those things.

    And I simply am a ridiculously poor auditory learner. Audio podcasts and too much video commentary I tune out into a drone after 5-10 minutes, despite all attempts to pay attention. Made surviving college lectures “interesting” to say the least. I usually ended up hauling a textbook and reading it to get more benefit.

  4. Well said Zubon, I find myself to be similarly minded (ie. not visual). One benefit I have found of this approach is that it is easier to appreciate older games without falling into the “these graphics are terrible” trap.

  5. Yeah, I often read Bhagpuss and Jeromai’s posts filled with images and wonder. Then you have people like WoodenPotatoes who are virtually reading a blog post aloud on YouTube while their character is running around with small correlation to the blog post. I would much rather read his words, but given the view counts… it seems I am a small majority. I like words.

    Anyway, good post as usual.

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