A path less trodden: Realistic impossible games

There’s a category of games which deals with ‚the impossible‘ as main theme. This is an approach which takes an entirely different direction than the quest for more realism in gaming. Most mainstream games usually strive for physical, contextual or emotional realism: Realistically behaving objects and environments, relatable everyday settings, involving and intriguing characters.

Each of this categories has a counterpart, be it an M.C.Escher-like warped universe or a Black-White-Shift of invertible negative space of the same ilk, a Lewis Carroll-like twisted conception of reality’s relationships or the Oliver Sacks‚-like madnesses of people both strange and affectionate.

The german expression ‚verrückt‘ would fit well, meaning both ‚crazy‘ and ‚pushed out of place‘. It’s a radical change of view, both forced on the player and also a necessary precondition to understand and play the game.

Three recent examples, which both utilize the physical approach to the impossible as gaming theme: First, there’s Portal, where you can ’shoot‘ connected doorways into any surface; second, there’s Echochrome , where you twist your environment both optically and physically, in a kind of constant optical illusion; third, there’s Crayon Physics Deluxe, where user-drawn objects acquire physical attributes in a virtual on-screen-drawing.
The problem with the other areas are the same as with their realistic approaches: A high effort in programming, and possibly a high risk of getting accepted by the gaming community.

Physics, or the twisting of it, seem to be a good starting point to broaden the viewers notion of seemingly impossible concepts. We’ve seen this Form of entertainment in ambigrams, the german „Vexierbild“ and even in word-plays like „Teekesselchen“ (homonym-puzzle). Even the use of metaphors is a play with impossibilites when seen from a rationalistic point of view. Here it’s a play with spatial continuity, optical illusions, and impossible physical attribution.