A lot of the history of games is the quest for more and more realistic worlds - from Donkey Kong to Doom to Gears of War - we've been progressing asymptotically toward the mythical photo-real total simulation, the fabled interactive movie. But maybe as we're reaching that goal, the goal changes. With new games like Echochrome, which was shown off at the Game Developers Conference yesterday, you can see developers entering a post-realist era - the way Impressionism and Surrealism followed Realism. They're moving beyond simple reality simulation into something more impressionist or surreal - maybe the future is not in simulating reality, but in playing with the rules that define it?
Echochrome is an Escher print come to life - when you shift perspective, you shift the physical configuration of what you're looking at, because we're looking at world that is simultaneously 2 and 3-dimensional. An upwards-leading flight of stairs can lead downwards, or ledges that looked far apart can become closer together.
Echochrome isn't alone games like Crush and Fez and Prey pull some of the same tricks, a mini-wave of games that riff on the artificiality of virtual space in a way that no other medium can. This is the game for everyone who's ever wanted to walk up - or down? - those stairs in Escher's "Relativity," or hear that weird trumpeter's mysterious music.