This occurs when the mood or the themes conveyed by the gameplay conflict with one or more other design elements (audio, visual, or narrative) in a video game. This can happen inadvertently, especially in big budget games with a high level of Gameplay and Story Segregation
due to the communication wall between the writing team and the design team. However, it can also be deliberately invoked for laughs or in order to make a statement.
Sometimes called "ludonarrative dissonance" by scholars and critics, but many people equate ludonarrative dissonance with Gameplay and Story Segregation
, whereas this trope can be present without segregation or even an explicit story.
In order to qualify for this trope, the actions a player must take to advance (gain score, advance the story, or obtain objectives) must contradict the mood or theme established by other elements in the work. If a player uses mods or Sequence Breaking
to subvert other design elements, or flat-out ignores the objectives given to them by the game, that's Off the Rails
. If an abstraction used by the game detracts from immersion, that's Acceptable Break from Reality
gone too far. If the player has to do something overly-complicated to progress but the activity doesn't conflict with mood or theme, that's a Plot Lock
This trope is a sub-trope of Mood Dissonance
- Surgery Simulator 2013—You have a patient on the operating table, whose life depends on your deft execution of his open-heart surgery. Problem is, the (deliberately) awkward control scheme makes even the best players look about as coordinated as a one-armed Frankenstein monster doped out on morphine. Hilarity Ensues.
- Spec Ops: The Line—This game deliberately works to satirize modern First-Person Shooter cliches by pairing mechanics that play straight with FPS tropes alongside a gritty War Is Hell story
- Grand Theft Auto IV—The modern GTA series is (in)famous for its anarchy-encouraging gameplay, often attacked by watchdogs for their inclusion of violence against police, prostitutes, and innocent passers-by. GTA IV is no different, but the narrative focuses on a character who is wracked with guilt over sins that the average player joyfully surpasses within five minutes of being unleashed on the world.
- Team Fortress 2—The Pyro weapon Rainblower modifies the view of the player using it, showing them blowing rainbows and bubbles, showering the other side in rainbow sparks as the player actively tries to immolate their enemy via flamethrower. This serves to make the pyro look very, very psychotic.