Why is it never a cheese sandwich? On the lock-and-key logic

I'm in the middle of some stuff related to securing the funding for next year - I´ll tell you about this at another time - but I wouldn't like to leave the blog without a new entry for too long. I invite you to check the following video (WARNING: Some spoilers about the video game Penumbra: The Black Plague):

What I want to point out here are the remarks made by Clarence on certain logic in video games (around 1:47). Clarence, one of the best NPCs in the history of video games, makes a very good point: why is it always a key, a note, a swipe card? Why not a cheese sandwich? I know there are probably some games out there in which you can collect cheese sandwiches and whatnot. But let's face it: how many games have you played in which keys and notes are used as a main mechanic, as a way to make the story advance and deliver their narrative? Countless, right? 

Jason Johnson from Kill Screen magazine quoted one of the comments made by Tim Schafer in an interview on Adventure Gamers, and he concluded that, probably mistakenly, Schafer was told by his backers (and he would agree) he should not innovate and get back to the classic lock-and-key puzzles. Honestly, that's almost the whole history of video games: locked doors and keys to open it. You can substitute the door with any other impediment - physical or other - and the key with any other object - material or intangible - that helps to overcome that obstacle. 

How can this logic of the lock-and-key puzzles influence on our daily life? If we, the gamers, are used to this kind of logic, do we see everything as a space full of locked doors which we must open? What kind of impact can have these mechanics on video gamers and the social worlds that are around them? Do they discipline us in some ways, in how we experience reality? In what do developers think when they create these commonplaces? Is this logic unique to video games or can be generalised?  

Think, monkeys, think!

PS: After writing this entry I came across this fabulous post [in Spanish] on a very particular puzzle in Monkey Island, the one in which Guybrush is tossed into the sea to let him sleep with the fishes. Here is a screenshot as a gentle reminder:
What Miguel R. Fervenza from Indiefence points out is why the puzzle works with veteran adventurers: because it plays with the mechanical way of thinking of gamers. At first, we try to reach one of those sharp objects we see around us (we think it's obvious, just cut the rope!). Once we notice we can't take any of them, we focus on our inventory, trying any combination that comes to our minds. We even yearn to find the solution from those guys who seem to be desperate to get rid of their knife. But the answer is much simpler: we just have to take the damn idol and walk away from the bottom of the ocean... Well, this is the kind of logic that, we, as gamers, have been cultivating along the years. That's the reason some games and designers, knowing it, mock us cruelly.

[An extended version of this post in Spanish can be found here 
at Deus Ex Machina]


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