Active vs. Passive Observer

An interesting, and somewhat obvious in hindsight distinction made by John Carmack in his Quakecon keynote between active and passive observers of a game’s visuals. The passive observer is someone who is watching a screenshot, or watching another person play; the active observer is the user in control of the game. The passive observer is much more likely to notice bad texel/pixel ration, aliasing on the trees in the distance or wobbly shadows; for him, the image is the end. The active observer treats the image as a means to an end, which is the game itself. Essentially, we’re marketing games to passive observers, who’ll buy them and then experience them as active observers.

Leave a Reply