Through Video Game Colored Glasses
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
One of the coolest things of getting into a video game is when it bleeds into the real world. Part of the experience of Mirror's Edge or Assassin's Creed is seeing parkour opportunities everywhere you go.
This isn't unique to games. The Matrix was similar, as was Sixth Sense and of course there is no end to books that change the way that you look at the world around you. Still, it's fun to look at how this functions for video games.
With these games, the entire world starts looking like something that you can traverse through. After playing Tony Hawk, you start looking for sick skate tricks. I imagine that being a parkour expert or an excellent skateboarder would open your eyes in a similar way, but the great trick of video games is that they make you look at the world as though you were without the difficulty of becoming that competent. In fact, given that the games aren't constrained by things like physics or human injuries, they let you see paths that actual experts would rightly dismiss as impossible.
Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy
As much as the difficulty and the cruelty of the game, a key aesthetic was the usage and repurposing of trash in the game. It's built from found objects and refers to the fact repeatedly. The game making a point of it to such a degree made me start to look for it in contexts outside of it.
Naturally, once you start to look for repurposing, you start to see it everywhere. Themes are constantly abstracted from one work and integrated into another in every form of media. Everything we do is built on the foundations that earlier work has set up. Hyper-awareness of it absolutely changes the way you experience the work.
The Quiet Sleep
A promising avenue of further exploration from here is in concepts that do not already have a model attached to them. Activities like parkour are tied to a model of the physical world that your players have already internalized, but something like the processes behind thinking don't have a system already in the player's mind. With The Quiet Sleep (Steam link), I tried to represent a system of this sort and I found this kind of effect as a result. The game frames times of emotional turmoil as a tower defense and so helps you understand the value of recharging between stressful periods. It's also a good representation of the idea that you can only sustain so many energy-consuming activities at once.
The idea of representing concepts of this sort that are both less concrete than physical systems and yet very important is a promising seam for system-based games. It allows you to make statements that can really resonate with the player, as was the case with getting overwhelmed in The Quiet Sleep, and hopefully help them better understand themselves.