TA Top Five: Game Mechanisms For Real Life

By Andrew Ogley, 2 years ago
Whilst out walking recently in the city of Maastricht, I happened to look up at the windows and brickwork of the medieval cathedral and thought, if I were Ezio Auditore, I would be able to climb that. Having done a fair share of mountain climbing and sport climbing, I knew how big the gap between fantasy and reality was at that moment, but it got me thinking what if we could bring some of the elements from our games into real life? The list this week takes that idea and features some of those common gaming mechanisms that would make life just a little bit easier if they existed in the real world. Most of these elements are general and can be found in a number of games, so there are no specific titles, although a few are mentioned. Incidentally, when we started with this, there were so many possibilities that keeping the list short was a challenge.

Honorable Mentions

Personal HUD
Top 5 Gaming Mechanics for Real Life

This scrapes in as a honorable mention purely for the reason that this might become reality sooner than we think. In the virtual world of gaming we pretty much take it for granted and yet it is the way in which we receive most of our information. Want to know how your health is doing? Look at your HUD. Want to know how much ammo is still in the clip? Look at the HUD. Want to know where the next waypoint is and where to go? Look at the HUD. In the near future, Google Glass may well give us much the same information, well at least in two of those examples, but for now the personal heads-up display is not quite here yet. Sadly we will have to wait a little longer and dumb-walk with our phones whilst hunting down the nearest coffee bar in the city.

Glowing Collectibles and Special Items
Top 5 Gaming Mechanics For Real Life

In BioShock (Xbox 360), Wolfenstein: The New Order, Metro Redux, and numerous other titles, a player can be exploring a new location when suddenly a glowing object catches the eye; a special item, be it a collectible, or something more important for their inventory. It never quite works like that in real life. If you put your phone somewhere whilst it is still in silent mode, you'll struggle to find it again. Car keys don't flash so they're never easy to locate, and you can find yourself in a terrible Catch-22 situation if you can't see where you left your glasses. It would be massively helpful if these sorts of items would flash or glow, or even appear on your personal HUD when we're trying to locate them. It seems ironic that the smallest bullet will glow enough to prompt you to pick it up in a game whilst your own misplaced phone seems to enter stealth mode in the real world.

Cloaking Shield
Top 5 Game Mechanics for Real Life

This only makes as far as an honorable mention. Yes, it would be super-cool, invisibility always has been, even back in 1897 when H.G. Wells wrote about it. I loved using the cloaking in the Crysis franchise, but let's face it, in today's world such a cloak would be used in far too many nefarious ways. As much fun as it would be, you couldn't let that sort of technology fall into the wrong hands, and so just an honorable mention.

Top 5

5 - Re-Assignable Skill Points
Top 5 Game Mechanics for Real Life

A nice little feature in a number of RPG's including the Fallout franchise is the ability to re-assign skill points. Whilst wandering in the Capital Wasteland, it might be necessary to suddenly boost your medical or computer skills. By re-assigning and redistributing your skill points, you can instantly transform yourself from MacGyver in one moment to Dr. House in the next. Sadly, in the real world it's not quite that easy. Any change of career direction usually requires countless months of studying and achieving all the necessary qualifications. It's a shame we just can't reassign a few points here and there, and try our hands at a new job; it would make life a little easier and little more interesting.

4 - Instant Character Builds
Top 5 Game Mechanics for Real Life

Whilst we could redevelop our minds and skillsets, it would be useful if we could change our physical characteristics just as easily. In Saints Row: The Third, Saints Row IV, and a number of other games, it was possible to create a character in just about any gender, shape, or form. Not only that, but if at any point in the game, your particular features no longer suited you, you could instantly change them. No working out in the gym, no dieting, no visits to the hairdresser, and no surgery. Whether to be as bootylicious as Beyonce or to go with Harry Styles' hair-y style; it could all be done instantly. It would no longer be a struggle to decide what to wear for work in the morning, and for those among us that require hours, days, and months to get ready to go out (an ex-girlfriend of mine started planning for her annual Christmas party as early as October), it would make life so much simpler.

3 - Dialog Trees
Top 5 Game Mechanics for Real Life

There comes a point, and everyone has faced it, when someone asks you a question that you don't know how to answer. It's not the lack of knowledge that incapacitates, it's the tussle between the truth and knowing the consequences. When your partner asks, "Does this make me look fat?" answers could vary between, "No of course not", "Darling, there's just more of you to love", or "That's what a family pack of M&M's every night will do to you". It's also very clear which is the paragon option, and which is the renegade. As well being able to explore the different options ahead of time, there is another characteristic of dialog trees that also makes life a little more bearable. Other than in Alpha Protocol, the inquisitor is prepared to wait, seemingly for an eternity, for their answer. Walking into a meeting where your boss asks if everyone has read the latest report, instead of answering immediately you can walk out, grab a coffee, read the report over a leisurely lunch of a couple of hours, and then go back and answer the question in the affirmative, with your boss being none the wiser about the passage of time. That's got to be worth something.

2 - Medical Kits, Health Packs, and Healing
Top 5 Gaming Mechanics for Real life

In the gaming world, there are various health mechanisms that essentially are the key to getting through some of the trickier elements of our games. Without judicious use of these elements we would struggle to finish, imagine Dark Souls without an Estus Flask, Halo: Reach on legendary without Medkits, or Call of Duty: World at War on Veteran without being able to duck out of sight to recover. With a simple Stimpak from Fallout, entire limbs can be restored and football injuries would be a thing of the past. During DIY and home improvements, any of those minuscule and yet strangely crippling splinters, would remove themselves even whilst you were on your coffee break. In the workplace, the scourge of office based injuries, the paper cut, would heal whilst you ducked into one of the bathroom cubicles.

1 - Save Points
Top 5 Game Mechanics for Real Life

Save points are purely a personal thing. Oscar Wilde once said "I can resist everything except temptation" and I know all too well that feeling. Sometimes, even though you know something is a really bad idea, you just can't stop yourself. After a crate of beer and a few bottles of wine, you know that those Jägermeister shots are not going to end well and yet you still go for it. Misbehaving at the company party, and telling the boss what you think of their latest re-organisation ideas; also not so good. For those moments, it would be nice if you could wander over to the nearest typewriter or sit down at a local bonfire just to ensure that whatever happens (and it's never going to be good), you always have an escape plan and a backup.

The TA Team will be bringing you The TA Top Five every Sunday until we run out of coolness to debate and discuss. If you have an idea for a Top Five you'd like us to do, be sure to let us know in the comments!
Andrew Ogley
Written by Andrew Ogley
Andrew has been writing for TA since 2011 covering news, reviews and the occasional editorials and features. One of the grumpy old men of the team, his mid-life crisis has currently manifested itself in the form of an addiction to sim-racing - not being able to afford the real life car of his dreams. When not spending hours burning simulated rubber, he still likes to run around, shoot stuff and blow things up - in the virtual world only of course.