Believability, as I’m relating it to video games, lies not with the premise, but the treatment of the gameplay in relation to this premise. Allow me to explain: I don’t have a problem with the dead coming back to life with a penchant for murderous shenanigans; what I do have a problem with is believing I wouldn’t take some kind of cowardly precautions such as stockpiling tons of ammunition at my makeshift base.
There’s plenty of belief-suspending in video games, but nothing shatters that delicate illusion faster than the often unintentionally unrealistic situations and choices placed on your character. Using the aforementioned example, if we are to believe we are involved in a zombie apocalypse, then limitations such as lack of ammunition must be explained satisfactorily. While it may be true that our character can only carry a finite amount of rounds, there must be a reason he can’t just break into Walmart or a gun store and stock up on crates of the stuff. Using one of hundreds of available abandoned vehicles, the ammo could be transported to the desired location. If that’s not possible, I need to know why.
A good explanation will make any premise believable. Of course, the actual explanation would be something more like, “You can’t go outside because it would have cost too much to render the entire city in enough detail for you to interact freely with it. And as far as driving mechanics go, we’re only budgeted for a monster closet-style shooter. This ain’t GTA V.”
It doesn’t cost much for an explanation, but it forgives a multitude of budget cuts. At the very least, have an explanation written in text as part of a directive or a discovered letter. It could be delivered aurally over a broadcast or by an NPC during a cutscene. Sure, you’re telling me what I don’t want to hear, but let the cards fall where they may and I’ll play the hand I’m dealt.
A good excuse establishes the rules of play by exploiting the limitations of the production. It lends credibility to the shortcomings of the gameplay. Tell me some chemical in the water is causing temporary dementia in my character. That could help explain the seemingly endless maze of corridors I’m stuck in, or why the scenery repeats like the backdrop of an episode of The Flintstones. Or why the controls don’t respond properly. Or why my character can seemingly walk through a wall.
If you pretend your game is perfect, I’m going to do my damndest to find fault with it. That’s what I’m trained to do.
On a personal front, I am also trained to offer a disclaimer to people I am introduced to. It works wonders, letting me get away with murder (throughout Canada and at least 47 States). There’s no excuse for not having a good excuse.
Date: October 26, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*