Representation and Simulation

In general, video games have allowed for a new way of exploring realities. Films, music and books have long explored dynamic systems of reality through representation and narrative, and while video games undeniably utilise narratives, they depict, explain and explore reality through simulation. When looking at video games it’s helpful to view them as simulations due to the complexity of what they convey and evoke, something which is much greater than what representation alone can achieve.

Gonzalo Frasca (2001) explains that “games are ontologically different from narrative because they are not just based on representation. Instead, they rely on simulation, which is a way of portraying reality that essentially differs from narrative… Simulation does not simply represents objects and systems, but it also models their behaviours.” Frasca (2001) goes on to say that it’s important to understand that through representation, only certain aspects are explained and so, “representation is always an incomplete task”.

“Simulation does not simply represents objects and systems, but it also models their behaviours.”

Furthermore, simulations are, to an external observer, merely a representation or, an “interactive narrative”, “for an external observer, the outcome of a simulation is a narration” (Frasca 2001) and therefore, it is important to note that simulation is also far from exhaustive. Frasca is not arguing that simulation is superior to representation, but is more effective for viewing the dynamic systems within video games. This is because the player is a fundamental part of simulation. (This also leads to a participatory culture, which I will be exploring next week).

For example, at a most basic level, a picture has no player, and therefore the mechanics and outcome of the picture can not be changed or acted upon. This is a representation.

A simulation is where a player can, and must choose certain actions, all leading to a specific outcome. There is a simple, interactive example of this here.

“…the simulation itself is something bigger than narrative. It is a dynamic system that yes, contains thousands of potential “stories”, but it is larger than the sum of its parts. The simulation itself is not a narrative, it is something different, in the same way that a kaleidoscope should not be understood as a collection of possible images but instead as a device that produces images according to certain mechanics” (Frasca 2001).

Due to the immersive nature of Virtual Reality, the idea of simulation is further heightened. In understanding the difference between representation and simulation I am able to explore how the ‘player’ will go from experiencing simulated events as a character in games to experiencing events as a personal experience within VR. In other words, the player of VR will now experience modeled behaviours of almost any ‘reality’ with greater realism than ever before. This is achieved through immersion.

In looking at The Yellow House as a simulation rather than a representation, I will hopefully be able to create an immersive environment that explores the dynamic systems both within the art pieces and the technology itself.



  1. When I read your paragraph noting that an external observer would see a simulation as a narrative, the rise of live streaming video games came to mind. When watching someone else play, you have no say in what they do (unless the streamer asks for tips or engages the audience in this way) and the story can be further grown through the way a player interacts with the game. With the idea of immersion in VR, I feel that this is mostly achieved due to the fact that one of the senses that we rely on most tells our brain that it’s real and so our body acts in that way. This immersion factor is the biggest part of VR at the moment and has become a main focus to draw in an audience – a vast majority of VR games out there have a very weak narrative at this point in time. Looking back at our normal video games, immersion is best created through great story telling and is the best way to keep players hooked. I find myself becoming the character during gameplay and when it comes to choices, I’ll try my best to do things that would suit their personality whether that’s something as small as answering a yes or no question in Pokemon or a choice that has lasting repercussions like in Undertale.


  2. With the continuing rise of virtual reality in gaming making a simulation yellow house is a smart idea. 2016 will be the first year that VR headsets drop which lies in conjunction with your project. Immersing the gamer in the experience is vital and I think VR will change the whole industry. Check this article out for some more information about VR this year


  3. “For example, at a most basic level, a picture has no player, and therefore the mechanics and outcome of the picture can not be changed or acted upon.”

    I don’t know why but it was this line that really stuck out to me in your post. It’s entirely true that games are mostly a series of images flashing by at several frames per second (60fps by modern standards), and we as the player (represented through an avatar) are the ones actually bringing meaning to this world.

    I think virtual reality (as high-tech as it may seem) is actually returning the game industry to it’s roots, in that the player is constantly reminded that they are the ones navigating this world. It pivots entirely around their interaction with the world they have been brought into.

    Standard console and PC games have evolved over the last decade to give the illusion that the player isn’t as vital. Take GTA V for example, where you can leave your character standing still in a street and the city will still be bustling with life and everyone will go about their business. You still subconsciously realise that this world has no direct meaning until you interact with it (i.e. cause a pile-up on the freeway and throw grenades in every direction), but regardless the in-game world keeps moving on. It’s only when you go online and get run over by a 12-year-old driving a sports car, that you become aware of just how much the player alters the game world.

    I believe this is why your project is so fascinating and relevant in the contemporary gaming world. You’re once again trying to convince the “player” (navigator?) that their navigation is what The Yellow House relies on, just like a real life museum revolves around it’s visitors. Here is an interesting article written by The Guardian about where VR will fit into society in the future: I feel like this directly aligns with your project as it brings up the debate as to where VR will begin and where it will end? Could the immersion you’re trying to create be more satisfying for the player than real life?

    Either way I look forward to seeing your finished project. You seem to have researched your idea well, and are concise about how it leads in to your overall project. Great work!


  4. Last year I delved quite a bit into the experience of VR. I focused on it for my project a little bit and have to say it was quite the experience. I played multiple games, and experienced multiple worlds. It was.. something else to say the least.

    Games in itself is an immersing experience, like any RPG games such as Runescape or GTA V but they can only go so far. Theres a point they cant take you too, and VR takes us to that point.

    This makes think reall hard about VR and the “games” I played. I say games like that because, well.. some of these programs werent even games. They were just.. experiences. You were just in a world, and what you did determined what happened, but there was no aim.. no win or lose.. no challenge. There was one where you literaly just started in this world, this beautiful green flowery world. And when you turned your head and looked back, the world would change. Eventually it turned into a city, then there were cars crashing and buildings on fire. I was in this world and I’m not sure what I was simulating but I knew I was doing something. It was just such a different experience.

    I’m not sure if this is where you were going with your blog post but this really clicked for me while reading it. Loved the quotes too, it really put the concepts into perspective and helped me understand them better.


  5. Hey Matt,

    I especially like the VR angle you are taking in your project. I like the quote you used “Simulation does not simply represents objects and systems, but it also models their behaviours.” This is so true especially when it comes to 3D modeling and Special Effects.

    A group called Firepandas had recreated Studio Ghibli scenes from films such as Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro. shows some of the worlds in action. It just shows how far VR technology has come over the last couple of years.


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