- In Othello, Othello is not a very literary character and certainly not one of the greatest poets of all time. Yet he speaks in exquisite verse that only a genius could think up on the fly. Should we conclude that, after all, Othello is a brilliant poet?
- In Leonardo's Last supper, all people sit on the same side of the table. What strange arrangement is this? What reason could Jesus' disciples have for sitting like this? Does it make sense to ask these questions?
- In too many WWII movies to even begin mentioning, the german soldiers speak English. Are we to believe that Germans during the war spoke English regularly?
There was a discussion on Mandragon (in Dutch) (starting from the first post of benjamin) about whether or not it made sense if characters in a roleplaying game suddenly become better in skills they haven't used during the adventure. Many systems give you points that you can freely spend to increase your skills, putting no restiction on which skills are allowed to go up. Dungeons and Dragons is a clear example, and so is The Shadow of Yesterday. But how is it that your character becomes better at etiquette after spending a week in a dungeon killing goblins? Isn't that 'unrealistic'?
Here's my answer: in these games, those questions are silly questions in exactly the same way that questions about the poetic skills of Othello are silly with respect to Shakespeare's play. The causality of 'getting better' is de-emphasised in these games: they simply want progression, and this is an easy and fun way to implement it. You are not supposed to ask questions about how this progression takes place, because that means dwelling upon something the game tells you not to dwell upon. Criticising these games for being unrealistic is not simply a matter of clashing creative agenda's, is it a matter of not understanding how these games ought to be played.