Also in my new issue of CGW was this quote, from Thierry ‘Scooter’ Nguyen’s review of IGI 2: Covert Strike —
“The fact that ex-SAS/current-IGI-agent David Jones gets constantly surprised by third-rate terrorists and inscrutable Chinese troops goes beyond suspending disbelief, and is just one of the litany of annoyances that plague IGI 2: Covert Strike.”
I understand what the writer intended to say, but the phrase ‘goes beyond suspending disbelief’ is a bit strained. In fact, about the only think I can think of that’s beyond suspending disbelief is slipping into full-blown delusion – which may be what happened to the reviewer while he was playing the game, but it has nothing to do with suspending disbelief.
For those who have heard the phrase before, but haven’t had it explained, suspension of disbelief is an unwieldy term used to describe a distinct mental state. Our normal mental state in life is to expect that the things happening around us are real: the sun rises and sets, the grass grows, the lawnmower shreds our toes if we’re not paying attention. Put another way, we believe in these things.
In contrast to Real Life, where you can lose your toes, fictional experiences are not real, and not believable in the same sense. We all know going into a movie theater that what we’re about to see is a mechanical charade that has been intentionally rigged by a bunch of people working somewhere else.
Most of the time we actively disbelieve the reality of a movie, up to and including when we take our seats in the theater. Amazingly, however, as the lights come down, we can still mentally SUSPEND our DISBELIEF and become imaginatively and emotionally affected by the motion picture(s) flickering on the screen in front of us.
What’s truly great about suspension of disbelief for us as developers is that audiences usually suspend disbelief willingly: we don’t have to talk them into it much. What’s not great is that it’s very fragile, and almost anything can disrupt it once we’ve created it in the minds of our users.
In the quote above the reviewer simply should have said that the problems with the game disrupted or shattered suspension of disbelief, making it impossible for him to entertain imaginative involvement in the work. Which is the real point: suspension of disbelief, once created, must also be maintained.
— Mark Barrett