When the new King's Quest was first revealed back at The Game Awards' debut in 2014, I was immediately intrigued — captivated, really. King-to-be Graham ran and leapt across rubble. He explored beautiful woods and the luscious countryside. He descended into the cavern of a dragon. "Once upon an astounding time," rang out the rousing narration.
And yet, when I finally got to play it, the game just felt... empty. Dull, vacuous, lifeless — call it whatever you want, but there was something missing from the world of King's Quest, something that kept it from feeling alive. In searching for the cause, I realized I had to look more fundamentally than just video games: what makes the world of any fiction feel alive? What gives each world its unique flavor and atmosphere?
In finding the answer to that fundamental question, we'll be able to discern how King's Quest, a game which seemed at its announcement like it had so much spirit, ended up so oddly soulless. As it turns out, the answer lies in people, in how we relate to the real world and how we use proxies (characters) to relate to fictional worlds.