Day: June 20, 2011

Frequently Coincidental

[Continuing the series of posts on dissonance in the MDA model, this post covers the totally not made up term "Falsimilitude" or un-life-likeness moments in narrative.]

You enter televisions to fight monsters in dungeons created from negative energy molded by the unrequited feelings of people in a small Japanese town.

Given that premise, you’d think that any number of things could be excused in the game. However, the fact that no one sees your team — an ever increasing number of people who join you to fight the monsters — enter a big-screen television in the middle of a department store bothers me.

Verisimilitude is the quality of which something artistic is like reality. Put another way, it is the “lifelikeness” of something. Falsimilitude then is the quality of which something artistic is not like life at all. It is entering the Uncanny Valley of narrative, the sudden breakage of the ‘fictional dream’ back into reality.

In Persona 4 (Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4), you do exactly as I stated in the opening: you enter televisions and fight monsters. The game takes a fantasy bent on what crimes, unrequited emotions and small town politics has on the lives of a set of kids in high school. Quite clearly a fictional setting, story and plot, the game can excuse any number of things while in the “Midnight Channel” (alternative dimension where, as I said, the monsters are), but often annoys me with its presentation of what goes on in the town.

Through a confluence of events, the fact that the protagonist has a hidden power and some admittedly heavy-handed plot, the player is transported into a television early on in the game. Before this however, the characters are standing in front of a big-screen television in a department store. During the process of entering the television the first time, and every time after, no one seems to notice the characters leaving the store in a thoroughly unique way.

To me, this is Falsimilitude“. The narrative of the world in the game’s setting does not excuse, in my opinion, the ability for repetitive entering of an alternative dimension and no one in the town or even store noticing. (It also fits the trope of Invisible Children, a frequent plot device of media featuring children or young adults.)

This form of dissonance is an Aesthetic response directly from the Mechanics side, bypassing any self-expression through the Dynamics loop. The act of observation and consideration trigger the response without any interaction with the world as a constructed item. It is the opposite of the ‘Game as Drama’ approach to quantifying “fun” where the rejection of the premise or larger set of rules within the Mechanics side prompt the questioning of more rules.

As covered in the last post, once a sufficient amount of doubt has surfaced within the player’s mind, the ability to re-enter the ‘fictional dream’ of the world is scarred. Additional attempts to enter the ‘mindset’ of the character become increasingly and increasingly unlikely from the player side.