Tunnel vision

Many times when I play IF and am going through room descriptions, I feel like my character walking around while peering through a long paper tube. At first, I sort of know where I’m at, but if I want to really see what is in front of me, I’m must do a lot of extra looking at everything. I’m always wondering, why didn’t I see that that item was like that, I should have noticed that immediately when I entered the room. Has anyone else had this feeling? Does this appear in games with highly detailed environments?

A few thoughts:

 1.  To me, part of the fun of playing IF is exploration, and the whole point of exploration is that you don't just walk into a room and you're told everything about what's there.  You see the big picture; based on that, you decide to look more carefully at certain aspects of it.  That gives you some additional information, which in turn might trigger yet a closer look at a smaller piece of the overall picture.  I don't view that as a bad thing.  Quite the contrary, its part of what makes it fun.

 2.  Because of the nature of this exploration process, part of learning to play IF is to develop the habit of reading in a different way than one might read a novel.  You have to read carefully, of course, but you also have to be sensitive to clues to where further examination might be warranted.  Again, to me this is part of the fun.

 3.  Implicit in all of this, of course, is that the author has a reponsibility to write something which works well given the nature of the process.  Ideally, each level of description should give the reader some hint as to what, if anything, warrants taking the exploratory process to the next level, but should do so without making it so obvious that exploration becomes a purely mechanical process.  This is difficult to do well, and obviously games vary widely in how well they pull it off.

 4.  To a certain exent, at least, I think this process is consistent with the "real world."  In any given situation, there is a huge amount of raw information available to your senses.  However, the brain cannot process all of it without some focus.  Thus, in the real world, as in an IF game, you might walk into a room, in which a lot of detail is there to be seen by your eyes.  However, all of that detail will not really be apparent at first glance.  Instead, some features of the room might strike you as interesting, whereupon you focus your attention on those aspects.  In doing so, you "see" things that you did not really "see" before, even though the information, in the form of light reflecting from the objects, was there to be seen.

Robert Rothman

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