Not this crude matter
The weirdest way my brain has ever altered reality… - A failed Reddit thread

This thread is about the effect when you see/hear/read something or participate in a situation/conversation that is so shocking or weird to you that your brain immediately corrects it and makes it “comfortable” for you. Later on, when you observe the object/text/song/conversation/video/situation again, you realize that your brain deceived you, and at the time, you literally had no idea what’s really going on.

My example is this:

I started to play Half Life 2 Episode 1 on my old computer which had GeForce FX5500 VGA in it. This card is not supported fully by the game, and this causes that some textures don’t show up (cue the purple-black checkerboard stuff) and some key objects in the game are invisible.

I started playing the game, not knowing that my card is not supported. At the beginning, there is a great chasm. You and Alyx have to climb all the way on the ledge of it. There is various stuff scattered on the ledge, and you have to clear the way with the Gravity Gun. In this video (@6:21) you can see a car and some other debris blocking the way. For me that car was invisible. I was literally stuck against nothing.

But what does a gamer do in a situation like this? That’s right: shoots whatever weapon he has like a fucking madman at the obstacle. It didn’t matter if it was visible or not: I could shoot it away and could continue my journey. I suspected nothing wrong.

Next up: our heroes arrive at the citadel - only it didn’t look like this to me. It looked like a purple dollhouse. It was full of “texture not found” messages. The problem was right in front of my eyes. I however figured: since the Citadel is on the verge of destruction, no wonder it looks fucked up. Case closed. I suspected nothing wrong.

After this nicely thought up explanation, I tried to find the way out of this first area of the Citadel. Only problem was: it didn’t seem that there was any. You see, the bridge you can see Freeman crossing here was invisible for me. It just wasn’t there. After much struggling around, I began to accept the possibility that the Citadel must be so fucked up, it could even have invisible bridges.

Since the door on the other side so obviously led to the next part of the map, I just kinda stepped on the air. I didn’t feel like Harrison Ford from The Last Crusade. No. I didn’t say to myself “whoa, the guys at Valve are experts of game design, there is no fucking way they could have planted something like this in the game on purpose”. I suspected nothing wrong.

And so it went until a point which should have been really weird: A few minutes later, the heroes are on an elevator which descends slowly. There are several pieces of big debris falling that you have to deflect with the Gravity Gun, because if you don’t the piece hits the elevator, it falls down and you die. As you can see, every “lethal” piece of debris is foreshadowed by a burst of sparks. Those are the debris pieces you must deflect. Except, they were invisible for me.

I could see the occasional burst of sparks, and 2 seconds later the elevator fell and I died. And again. And again. So what did I do, you ask? I stood there, shooting wildly up with the gravity gun, and with a healthy dose of luck, I progressed after 30+ tries. I suspected nothing wrong.

But everything that has a beginning, has an end. I had to get stuck somewhere where manipulating an invisible object is the only way to progress. And here I was, standing agains this fence, where I was supposed to shoot the padlock, but as you can see, the gravity gun is useless, you need to use the shotgun, as the player does in this video. After countless hours of trying, I finally gave in, and loaded into my browser.

As I read the walktrough and found strange references to objects that weren’t even in the game again and again and again, like a revelation sequence in thrillers every such situation flashed before my eyes. The car. The falling debris. The bridge. Everything made sense now.

TL;DR: My brain helped me almost all the way through the first quarter of HL2 Ep 1, when due to a graphical bug with my VGA, key objects were invisible in the game (including a bridge), and several textures were missing. I only detected that there’s something wrong when I couldn’t progress further in the game because I couldn’t see a padlock I was supposed to shoot.

With the rise of the graphics processor and 3-D graphics, PC games became an arms race to make the most technologically impressive, most accurate depiction of reality, and shoehorn a game into it. Memory banks became large enough for massive, wide-open levels, and so free-roaming gameplay was born. GPUs became capable of colored lighting, and, for a while, games had floating crystals that emitted light everywhere. Then developers were able to make things shine and glisten in light, but instead of keeping this to wet floors and gooey blob monsters, it was put on everything, even human beings, which made them look like sweaty plastic action figures. The technology was there and it needed to be used. To look back on a lot of these games is embarrassing, now that “realistic” has been redefined seven times since.

Source: Half Life 2 review on Action Button Dot Net

There is a difference between using technology to develop a game and using a game to develop a technology. But back in the day, there were some companies who despite using new technology, focused on gameplay.

My favorite example is Unreal Tournament, my favorite game ever. It had advanced 3D models, an awesome engine, great physics, dynamic lighting - you name it. But what do I remember the most about that game? FUN. With capitals.

Half Life 2 is also a great example to make this point: it had many innovations, like ragdoll physics and whatnot, but they were all utilized to maximize the immersion and make the gameplay better. Exhibit A: Gravity Gun. One of the greatest ideas ever in video game history. In my book, it is tied with the translocator (from UT of course) as the best FPS-weapon ever.

Valve focused on the gameplay and the experience. Others fccused on floating crystals. Guess which games are still remembered today?

Simply brilliant!

There is a difference between “fun” and “realistic”. Can you survive a shot to the chest with an AK point blank? Even with kevlar, the answer is no. Would it be more fun if 1 bullet the chest killed you, no matter what gun it was? Certainly not. The premise of making a game LESS fun so it can be MORE realistic is just… Dumb. These are video games, not combat sims.

My thoughts exactly!

(From a Counter-Strike: Source review on GameFAQs)