I’m going to lie to you.

The first-person viewpoint is so often shorthand for “You are here. Your body is here. Your body can interact with things physically”.

This is the lie.

Because it’s a lie, guns are so prevalent. They project your will, your violence, into the visual space. The distant violence enabled by guns is a better fit for the first person view point than up-close melee because the former is primarily visual. And more people have been in a fist-fight than a gun fight, so they can tell when something feels off.

Sometimes, if the experience being “(re)created” is one players know only cinematically, the illusion of the lens will be employed to help sell the lie. Light flares, water droplets. Now it is not so much “You are here” as “Your reality is light bent through a lens.” Or, maybe, “this isn’t reality and we know it, so we’re going to signal that visually.” Water splashes on the lens in a documentary, tells you the lens is there. Acknowledge the camera’s presence and lend realism to the image it captures.

The great anti-interpretative promise of the videogame: they react the same way to any player’s input, so long as that input is the same. They don’t care who you are, where you’re from, just what you do at that minute. They’re too busy interpreting your action, providing feedback, to be subject to interpretation. They’re more real than film or music or books because they’re objective, they don’t care about you and they don’t care about their author.

This is the lie.

They train us to look for clues, to suss out what’s gone on “out there”, “in there”. They make every player a detective and every game a serial killer, leaving behind clues to be interpreted not because it wants to be caught, but because it thinks it’s smarter than you.

You cannot feel. No touch, taste, or smell, and so synaesthesia. Everything comes through sight and through sound. When you get shot in the back, you don’t feel pain, you see a red-curved line bending in the direction of the bullet. It is more informational than real pain, which does not triangulate its source. Because sight and sound are so important, they must be reliable. What you see and what you hear are the substance out of which the game world is built so they must be true – anything else would be a betrayal.

This is the lie.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood’s Renaissance Rome’s buildings are as old as the “Roman ruins” that populate the city are as old as the near-future-tech of the Animus. But we pretend they are different ages because we know how old they are supposed to be based on how they look. The aesthetics cue us into how to construct the temporality of the diegetic elements; to force onto them a linear existence, to give them a past and a present and a cause and an effect. The idea that things spring out of nowhere, no background, is terrifying. Better to put everything in order.

This is the lie.

How much subversion can occur within a system designed by someone else? You can only do what the system allows; if what you do is not intentionally enabled by the designer but still enabled, what does it mean to do it?

What is the lie? Where is the truth? In the material? There’s no paint quality to examine, no physical properties to underscore. Coltan mining and plastics and manufacturing conditions or assets and music and ? In the program? If/then/else and try/catch and binary?

I just want to go to sleep.