Anyway, I did manage to see my kung fu brother Jon yesterday, and we gamed for a bit. So now I have footage for more CoOpted episodes, making up for the stupidity of my losing four episodes worth of footage from the last time. Those should be going up next week. I have also been editing Nights at the Round Table stuff, stuff for Ottawa Reads and stuff for CanCon. It's been a thing.
While things were rendering last night, and after I had a much needed chat with my mum (hi , Mum!), I did manage to get in a few hours of Skyrim. Afterwards, I had a long think about the suspension of disbelief.
Part of the reason many books and games are so impactful for me is because I can an do very readily suspend my disbelief. I mean, if you really think about it, a lot of stuff that is required to make games or books work is really silly.
For fantasy games, for example, you often find bits and pieces of armour laying about, in chests in dungeons or you can loot them from defeated foes. If that armour proves better than the stuff you currently have, you can simply put it on.
This is particularly hilarious if the foe you just defeated is quite clearly much larger (or smaller) than you are.
Anyone who knows this stuff knows that ill-fitting armour helps the wearer not one whit. In games like Skyrim, armour is magic, whether is is enchanted or not. It shrinks or grows to fit you perfectly. Obviously, that's ludicrous, but it's barely a thought as you change up your armour sets. You just take something from a chest of loot a body and it magically fits.
And we just accept that.
That's a game mechanic that probably wouldn't work in a book so much. Probably.
Similarly, strange things happen in books that readers would have a lot of trouble accepting if it happened in real life. I mean, if a tree just randomly started talking to you, you'd probably wonder what kind of psychosis you've suddenly contracted, or just what kind of mushrooms were in that Penne you had for lunch. In a fantasy novel, however, it tends to just be accepted (by most readers, and if done well enough).
I wonder why. What is it exactly that makes people able and willing to suspend their disbelief for the duration of a game or book (or film)? It certainly doesn't work for every book or game. For example, the game I'm currently recording with Jon for CoOpted is just silly. There's so much in there that makes me want to roll my eyes. I make fun of it quite a bit (when I'm not dying). There have been books where, no matter how willing I was, I was simply unable to suspend my disbelief.
Thinking about this stuff, I realise that I have absolutely no idea what it is that makes people suspend their disbelief while reading/watching/gaming. Part of it is a willingness to, obviously, but even that doesn't always guarantee it'll happen.
No doubt it is a mix of audience willingness, and the quality of the writing, the world-building, character creation and development, and, of course, how compelling the story is.
For Skyrim, for example, part of my suspension of disbelief is how fascinating the world you find yourself in is. There are ruins that speak to a long history, filled with wars and intrigue. You get hits of it in the landscape; the ruins of forts, the Dwemer ruins that were suddenly abandoned, left to the twisted Falmer. You find it in mentions of ancient battles and heroes in books, and conversations with NPCs. These mentions are never complete, leaving the player with a desire to learn more about it all. At least, for myself, and largely because I'm such an ancient history/archaeology nerd. Some of my favourite things to do in game is explore ruins. Every time I come across the body of a scholar, whose notebook nearby reveals some mystery relating to ancient lore, I get stupidly excited.
Questions of what happened and why in world keep me up last night. Like, for example, I am obsessed with the question of why the Dwemer blinded the Falmer. Why? Why did they demand that? What was the purpose? The result was that they ended up enslaving the Falmer, but was that the purpose? Were the Dwemer really just that awful? And surely there must have been some Dwemer that resisted the evil in their own ranks? And then there's the question of where did they go? The Dwemer and their Falmer slaves were at war when the Dwemer just suddenly upped and vanished.
I have a theory, given what I know of the Dwemer, but I have grave doubts about this theory because I simply do not know enough... and I need to know! That's some exceptional world building, and that element of ancient history and the mysteries it presents is key to my complete engrossment when playing the game; enough that the things that make no sense (magical armour!) don't even register... until I think about it later.
What do you think? What do you require for you to be able to suspend your disbelief enough that you can read/watch/game without pause? I'm interested to know. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
PS - My theory is that the Dwemer managed to open a portal to a new dimension and escaped there, thusly ending the war with the enemy they created for themselves (the Falmer). That dimension? Oblivion. The Dwemer became the Daedra. I mean, if you think about it... the Daedra are just as awful as the Dwemer seemed to be. Now this is just a stab in the dark, and probably very wrong, but that's my current theory. It is subject to change.