Sunday, July 1, 2012

Physical Reality, Virtual Reality

I'm always fascinated by the way our brains work when it comes to games.  It doesn't take a lot to fool us into feeling like we have "been" to a place that exists only as a map in a computer, if we have had to do the work of learning our way around it.  It seems that the process of exploring and discovering triggers the brain's handling for real-world geography, even when the world we're working with is completely virtual.  What we see and hear and sense feels immediate and "real," but it's all being processed and interpreted by our brains; our internal hardware can't necessarily distinguish between real and virtual inputs at a certain level.

So it was interesting to hear from Mr. Neil Bradley this week, the at-the-time uncredited author of an old SoftSide text adventure I covered a while back called Crime Adventure.  He emailed, and I reproduce with his kind permission, this interesting bit of background:

I wrote it originally for the TRS-80 Model I. It was based on my Portland, Oregon neighborhood at the time. There's a 7-11 at 114th & Halsey that I called the "arcade." There was a Gateway bowling alley on 102nd that I moved right along side it. The Tsein-Tsein Chinese restaurant is across the street. Mr. Fenwick was actually Mr. Forsberg, a nice old guy who lived up the street from me who was BIG into golf. There was a family of Gypsies who lived nearby (inspiration for the fortune teller). Wow - this is bringing back memories!

So apparently it can work the other way around too -- creating a virtual recreation of a familiar environment can also encode memories associated with that environment.  Neato!

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