© Written by Rob Ager July 2014




On virtually every level of perception and interaction, movies and video games feature startling mismatches with reality. And, depending on the preferences of the viewer / gamer, these particular mismatches can either hinder or enhance the appeal of the artificial experience. Certain types of “realism” hold greater appeal than others, but the notion of a completely immersive movie or gaming experience, barely distinguishable from reality, is neither possible nor particularly desirable. If it were possible then it would also have to feature the inherent frustrations of real life in order to be convincing, but what would be the appeal of that apart from providing safe training simulations? This was summed up nicely in the movie The Matrix, in which human beings are attached, from birth, to reality simulators and never come to realize that their life is artificial. One character explains that a version of The Matrix had been created that fulfilled every human desire, but that the subjects would quickly reject it because they knew there was something inherently artificial.

The Matrix plot point of having everything too easy being an engagement spoiler is certainly found in computer games. Games that are too easy to play and too easy to complete quickly become boring. Use an invincibility cheat in a game and the appeal of the game very quickly wears off.

Movies and video games must strike a balance of giving the viewer what they want in terms of an experience that is easier to make sense of and interact with than the real world, yet at the same time there must be a challenge – things that the viewer / gamer must figure out for themselves along the way; a balance between effort and reward. Being that different people have their own tastes and preferences regarding how they like to be challenged by movies and video games, the film makers and game creators must generally choose specific audience subgroups and design their material with them in mind.

Rather than trying to reach forever outward to the unreachable “realistic” movie or gaming experience, content creators are better off accepting that what they create will always just be another form of artificiality. Having done this they can go about creating new types of stimulating, interesting and beneficial "unreality".