Are You Playing A Video Game Before You Are Playing It?

Last week, Will Wright was talking in New York City and saying brainy things. Among them was an idea I'd never considered before, that people will play the virtual reality that is a video game before they physically play it.

Specifically, Wright, while speaking about toys, was exploring the concept of model-building, in the context of how playing with toys and using our imagination allows us to mentally model how the world works. Play with toy cars, for example, and you're maybe modeling traffic patterns.

Wright brought in an example from the lives of video gamers. This one involves a gamer going into a store intending to get a game. Maybe they've heard of the game. Maybe they've read about it. Maybe they know just what the back of the box they're holding in the store tells you. But as soon as they're thinking about it and considering it, the potential gamers are.... playing the game. "They are already playing this low-res version in their imagination of what the game is going to be like."

If they then buy the game, and play the higher-res version that shows up on their computer or TV screen — and if it's not as good as the one they played in their head — that's a problem.

If the game they play is prettier or better version of what they played in their head, that's great.

I never thought of it that way before, that we're essentially mentally demoing a game in low-res mental graphics before we play it on a console or computer. Does that notion ring true to you? Does it explain your reactions, either of satisfaction or disappointment, to games you've played?