An often ignored feature of the videogame medium is the idea of scale and how we perceive and relate to the virtual environments in our games. For the most part, game developers have tended to create worlds where the scale is similar to our real world conceptions of space. Whether you’re fighting alien invaders in Space Marine Shooter 2009 or battling fanciful beasts in an RPG, most of our interactions in videogames are through a human-scaled avatar and world.
Imagine a shootout in a game with a member of team blue loading his weapon to engage you. Whether we’re talking about Halo 3, GTA4, or Gears of War, it’s usually the case that you’ll be able to judge the virtual distance of your adversary in feet or meters. Most virtual worlds are crafted around distances and scales easily perceived by real world measures. For me at least, this has resulted in a dulling and homogenization of the game experience. As much as Unreal 3 has killed the color palate for games, so too are most modern games creating an implicit set of norms that is limiting the formula for success regarding scale in games. Even games outside of the first/third person camera perspectives such as RTSs still adhere to real world scales, namely due to the use of familiar assets (space marines, cars, buildings, etc.).
What I would love to see is developers being more creative with scale. There are modern examples of this such as Katamari Damacy, Shadow of the Colossus, and Pikmin. Gone are the creative days of 2-D where a screen filling boss would instill fear in us based on its size alone. Perhaps allowing us to play with the monsters instead of the human-scaled characters would help. A focus on smaller/bigger scaled environments would also be a welcome change, where the most immediately relevant asset to a game is neither human nor any object typical of gaming (i.e. cars, robots, etc.). Videogames is the medium best equipped to provide visceral simulations of non-human scaled worlds and the industry should do more to explore this artistic option.