I don't know if other people have had this same experience but when I was younger and went to the beach during my holidays I'd encounter a strange phenomenon. I'd run down from where my parents were sunbathing, toward the water. Playing by the water's edge for a while I would eventually look around to return - but almost every time I would discover that I had drifted. My parents were almost invariably no longer directly behind, but somewhere further along the beach. Somehow I'd been so absorbed in my activity that I never noticed how far I had moved from my original spot. When I turned around I would have the momentary sensation of being completely lost until I located my parents somewhere off in the distance.
Recently I've noticed that the most engrossing single player games I've played have a similar effect on me - they suck me in but in a very real, non-metaphorical way.
I first realised this properly when playing Bioshock
although I'm sure it has been happening for considerably longer. I am reaching the big reveal in the game - I know it is coming and I sit up straighter, forgetting whatever else was happening on my laptop in the background...
...As I enter a particular room and the cogs of the plot start turning and clicking into place I crep closer to the edge of my seat in true cliched fashion...
...Then, a scene plays out. As it happens I am sent slowly off the edge of my seat and sit on the floor against the couch...
...At the climax of the scene I am kneeling closer to the TV, having closed about half the distance between the couch and the screen by now...
...The scene ends, and the rapture (wow, I just proofread this post and seriously
no pun intended!) fades. I turn my head to check my laptop only to find that I've left it and my seat behind, only now realising how far the game has tugged me.
Other semi-recent moments to uproot me from the couch include, predictably, the entire final chapter of Portal
, the last level of Braid
and the Spire in Fable 2
(despite the rest of my issues
with that game).
My habits have changed since I was a younger gamer. Nowadays I have less time available to game and more things to distract me from it, like the internet, when I do have the time. That's why I often have a laptop running in the background when playing single-player, why I find myself pausing to do other things and why so it's easy to become detached from the experience of playing a game. In a way, then, it's comforting to know that every so often a game can still, even for just a moment, capture my attention so completely that I can be wrenched from my seat without even noticing.
A multiplayer game can be powerful in its own way, sure - but the best single-player games have friggin' telekinesis