Visual Representation – Examining Level of Abstraction and Game Play Sensation

Stevie Mills & Justin Carter Part of CW17

Visual representation for video games describes the way in which objects are displayed in order to convey meaning and recognition for the player. As a component of the games metaphor, visual representation offers context for interaction and provides players with meaning for their actions. A key component of visual representation is how closely the representation resembles real objects. If the representation establishes full resemblance it is considered realistic. However, if it does not attempt to resemble or provide meaning for the object it is considered abstract. Early generation game systems provided low fidelity graphical capabilities and therefore designers were restricted in the level of realism that could be achieved. With the introduction of each new generation of game systems, capability to achieve more realistic fidelity in representations has increased expanding the spectrum of possibility between real and abstract. This notion of varying levels of abstraction linked to interaction has implications for designers of video games attempting to achieve specific gameplay sensations. Tensions arise for player sensation when the level of abstraction fails to the match the player’s expected preconception of the game’s play mechanics, creating a dissonance between player and the game play experience.

This paper outlines the results of a practice-led study examining visual representation as a component of game design. This is achieved through the development of a prototype that provides opportunity to explore varying levels of abstraction within specific rule based contexts. The study illuminates links between how meaning is conveyed visually to a player and the implications this has for game play sensation.