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Déjà Joué

James Tauber just mentioned on Twitter:

“is it bad that I just saw a photo of Stockholm and immediately recognized a stretch of road from PGR2, rather than when I was actually there?”

This is something I’ve been thinking about recently. As game graphics improve, the realism levels become close enough to fool our brains into creating something like “real-world” memories for the worlds we’re experiencing in gameplay.

For example, when I visited California for the first time, I was stunned by the feelings of familiarity I felt in response to stuff I’d experienced while playing the super-realistic Grand Theft Auto: Vice City; little things like the way traffic lights were mounted above the road, the design of the curbs, etc., the level of detail for which Rockstar received a “Designer of the Year” nomination — because of this, the streetscape of a typical Californian street was instantly familiar to me.

The same thing happened this weekend, watching footage on TV of Arizona’s Monument Valley. Naturally, I’ve driven a dirt bike around Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas‘ version of this. ;)

Update: another one is the Pripyat level of Call of Duty 4, which would be extremely familiar to anyone viewing these photos from a real-life visit.

I think this phenomenon needs its own name. “déjà vu” is similar, but different — that phenomenon occurs when the memory feels erroneously that an experience has previously happened, whereas in this case, the experience has happened — albeit virtually.

I’ve come up with a phrase to describe this: “déjà joué”. (In French, that’s “already played”, analogous to the “already seen” of “déjà vu”.)

What do you reckon? If you like it, feel free to use it ;)