When does technology become magic in games?

The usually remote and mysterious Nate visited the RPS treehouse on Monday, and almost immediately work ground to a halt. Why? Because Nate challenged us with a question: what bits of modern technology could a person from the past figure out the workings of, just by observing and having a good think for a while? This immediately led to the counter-question “when and where in the past?”, which gobbled up another fifteen minutes. And then he asked how far back in history we, as modern people, would have to be sent before we could be confident of reaching the same understanding of all the technology that was around at the time. He asks a lot of questions, does Nate.

In terms of my own limits, I reckon most things invented after the late 1700s, when electricity and complex engines began creeping into play, would be beyond my capacity to intuit. Nate suggested his cut-off was around the mid-16th century, when most technology still worked via chunky mechanisms that human pattern recognition can decipher. Astrid initially suggested anything post-nuclear, but then climbed back as far as Nate, citing the barometer as a particular baffler. Matt thought a stone age knife would be beyond his ability to reproduce, slightly misunderstanding the exercise and dropping him to the bottom of the RPS post-apocalypse pecking order in the process (a knife, Matt? A bit of knapped stone? Bloody hell. Don’t give Matt the rifle). All this of course led me to the inevitable PC games angle: which games have technology systems complex enough to confound new players who, let’s face it, might as well be time travellers?

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Source: Rock, Paper, Shotgun

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