RE: What would you like to see from Frictional next?
A few days ago I read the start of this thread and thought, "what could Frictional do to take things a step further?" I didn't think of horror though. I think Frictional's mastered that as well is can be. Horror in games seems to exploit the flight/fight response more than anything else, and though it relies on intellectual aspects to work (recognizing genre props and aesthetics), it's still quite simplistic, and it's still possible to break the spell of immersion rather easily. Once you figure out what happens when you die in Amnesia, it can be a game-breaking experience; you can see that it's a game.
So I thought that maybe it would be possible to make a game that encourages the player to question their own reality through obfuscating the player's reality; to basically do for games what people like Philip K. Dick did for literature. I think that if a game relies so heavily on physical reaction, it gives too much power to critical thought. When we realize that Amnesia is perfectly safe 80% of the time, we've analyzed the game and came to rational conclusion that can work against the deep psychology of the game that's below the surface. So a game that retain a thoroughly coherent atmospher like Amnesia, that also recognizes the presence of the player and anticipates their evaluation could be more immersive. Evaluating game mechanics and one's own perception is something that people do naturally, and if the two are combined in a diegetic manner, the overall experience should be better.
I'd imagine a game with these goals would work in a way that's similar to 3-D chess. That is, multiple playing fields that interact with eachother. However, the player shouldn't be simultaneously aware each plane immediately. Rather, the player should become aware gradually and do so through trial and error. Is the player really sitting at a bus stop, or is he on the bus? Are the people he meets real, or is he imagining them because he is supposed to? Does talking to one person in one reality have an effect on another person in another reality? The logic of it would have to be abstract over physical. If the bus stop in one reality is the same location of the post office in another, then we would figure it out too quickly because humans are good at finding patterns, especially regarding equivalency. However, if the connections between realities are based on absence, it creates competing discourses about reality itself. No one reality would need to be true or false, but would perhaps lend itself interpretations of free and restricted in nature. Color vs. no color, diverse population vs. homogeniety, safety vs. danger, etc. Perhaps a goal of the game would be to construct a preferred reality?
Anyhow, my point is that Frictional has proven itself capable of going beyond what people assume are the limits of gaming as an experience, and I think they should continue. If someone asked me what Rockstar should do for their next game, I'd say "pay me for doing nothing." They make money on doing the same thing with increasing aesthetic quality, they update, but they don't revise. Frictional is different, I've been reading the blog, and it's awesome to see the thought that goes into their projects. I'm a grad student, and study games a little bit, and the blog is better than most published work in games studies. So if anybody can push the limits further, it'd be Frictional.
tl;dr = random game crap.