Reality Gap

It is a key element of game design to define how best to imerse the player’s experience in the game world. The best interfaces dissapear as the player feels they are just interacting with the game environment. This enables the player to suspend their disbeleif and become emersed in the game.

A willing suspension of disbelief that accompanies a first-person simulation enables the person who participates to feel what it would be like to have greater personal power. – Brena Laurel

This obviously has echoes of the interface that Nintendo are trying to achieve with the wii. How often have we heard about the key turning moment in Metroid, that felt so solid and emersive.

Merely opening doors requires such a wide range of interactions it’s practically thrilling…It feels great. Exactly like opening a door!

It’s almost as if Nintendo have Laurel on staff, as their design echoes her desire to reach my hands right through the screen and do what I want to do.

dsgap1.gifThere is an interesting case we can discuss in relation to user interface in the recent Yoshi’s Island DS. A key aspect of the game is the ability to throw Yoshi’s eggs across the two screens of the DS. The designers have obviously looked at Yoshi Touch and Go on the DS which had a similar play-mechanic. However they have decided to present this interaction differnetly.

Yoshi Touch and Go - No gap.In Yoshi Touch and Go the space between the two screens on the DS did not exist in the game world. This had the benefit of eliminating any dead space that could not be seen bewteen the two screens. However it made it notoriously hard to fire an egg across the screens. You effectively needed to aim a little higher than it appeared to land the shot.

yoshi2.gifyoshi3.gifIn Yoshi’s Island DS the space between the two screens on the DS is preserved. Although this does mean there is some play area that cannot be seen by the player, you can aim an egg normally.

For me this delivers a much more imersive experience, as I am not jarred out of the game world to make my egg go where i tell it. This far outweighs the dead space between screens, as I can still see this space by looking up or down within the game. As put much more concisley by Howard Rheingold:

That part of a computer game that makes the user step outside the game world, that doesn’t help the user to participate in the pleasure of the game, but acts as a tool for talking to the program — that’s where distance comes in.

This approach has now been proven with good sales success of Yoshi’s Island DS:

We’re very pleased with the performance of Yoshi’s Island DS. DS is becoming a real showcase for great platform games.


6 Responses to “Reality Gap”

  1. 1 Andy R November 25, 2006 at 9:56 pm

    pingback from

    Having played through more of Yoshi DS, I now agree with you that the screen gap does, at times, cause a problem. I had outlined the issues, and benefits, of this approach in a post on Game People ( As you can read, I found it aided my aiming, which I assume is the reason for its inclusion (as opposed to the Yoshi Touch and Go approach.
    The main problem arrises on the forced scroll levels, where you cannot look up or down or move the focus to a different screen, thus excentuating the problem of the invisible screen!

  2. 2 Matt January 3, 2007 at 2:27 am

    The dead space has presented quite an annoyance for me. In the first auto-scrolling level (2-6, if I recall correctly), I found I was loosing my character all to often. Aiming eggs was pretty convienent, but I cannot quite recall the difference in Yoshi’s Touch-and-Go. I will have to go compare them when I arrive at my gaming area.

  3. 3 AndyR January 3, 2007 at 7:06 am

    Ping back from –

    Interesting. I like your points.
    But what was your experience of playing it though? For me it was like revisiting an old friend. The game had me from the moment the spinning island slid ontot he screen.

  4. 4 happyatom January 26, 2007 at 2:25 am

    I completely agree with the point about suspension of disbelief. This is a big part of movies, but for games it’s so much more important. When I play Metroid Prime: Hunters on my DS, I actually feel like I am fighting an enemy, opening a door. The game becomes so immersing, that for that half hour I feel separated from everything else. That’s a big part of that makes Nintendo so great, things like this.

  5. 5 Hale Mauricio September 19, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    i’m losing my mind, and i don’t think it’s cleve. Hale Mauricio.

  6. 6 smog test Van Nuys August 5, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    This website certainly has all the information and facts I wanted
    about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

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