Posted by: Stenros | May 20, 2009

Reality as a Sourcebook


Blurring the line between real and fictive is something that pervasive games are great at doing. One design strategy that we have written about in the past and continue exploring in the upcoming book, is what we call using reality as a sourcebook. The idea is that since the real world and history is so rich with truly bizarre weird things, it is seldom neccessary to invent something new for your game fiction that can be used to explain something away. Instead you can look for a fitting weird phenomenon from history and then write that in. The upside is that the since you are using something that has a history and that is ‘real’, the players can reserach this thing both on the internet and in libraries. You get a lot of depth in the game for free. All you need to do is create a little bridging material.

For example both Momentum and Prosopopeia used the idea that it is possible to communicate with the dead using Electronic Voice Phenomenon. And since EVP has a history that goes back to Thomas Edison, the players could really dwell deep into it.

The reason I’m blogging about this is that I run into an old article on The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science. It can be read as a how-to -guide to creating relatively believable mock science to explain pretty much anything in the fiction of a game. My favourite:

The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection. Alas, there is never a clear photograph of a flying saucer, or the Loch Ness monster. All scientific measurements must contend with some level of background noise or statistical fluctuation. But if the signal-to-noise ratio cannot be improved, even in principle, the effect is probably not real and the work is not science.

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