I’d be remiss if I didn’t preface this post with the fact that I’m going for complete and utter hyperbole here. This is one of those things that really just twists my brain, makes me murderous, but at the same time, makes me whole-heartedly laugh at the lying enthusiasm that it seems the gaming industry loves to shake up our bits with.
You hear it everyday in the gaming world. A pervasive element of realism.
“We just made this brand new, shiny graphics engine to introduce a higher level of realism in our new title!”
“We want to make sure players are indulging in hyper-realism, which allows for greater immersion in the setting we’ve built in this new game!”
Great. Pretty pictures. Some of the newest shooters, open-world arenas, and RPGs do indeed have amazing graphics, and I won’t diminish their presentation. Games like Black Ops 3, Battlefield 4, Tomb Raider…it’s hard to remember that it’s just a game, given the amount of emotion, personal investment, and suspension of disbelief that we allow in order to really enjoy ourselves. Those “lovable character is going to die” moments hit us dead in the feels.
Mordin Solus comes to mind. Mass Effect fans, I’m sure I speak for a lot of you when I say that was heartwrenching.
Mordin, you Earthworm Jim homage. I love you, buddy. I’ll bring some seashells when I die. Just like old times, eh?
Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag made me think of all the events that were occurring off-screen in Pirates of the Carribbean. My dad was huge into pirates when he was still around, so it makes me think of him. I enjoy the pirate genre now, too. The immersion and potential for the imagination to run absolutely rampant is amazing.
You know what was missing, though? The “realism.”
I couldn’t sail from Jamaica to Cuba in ten seconds in real life. How is it realistic in the game? No no, don’t feed me the “You know how much work that would take?”
No no, Elite: Dangerous has a scale recreation of our entire known galaxy, of which all you can explore. Don’t tell me Ubisoft can’t do it. They’re just being lazy.
You know what gives me realism? Minecraft. Realism in the idea that you have to eat, struggle to survive, avoid dangerous wildlife and treacherous falls. You know, the stuff we try to avoid in real life? I mean, come on, chop down some wood with the blade of your hand, totally realistic. Take that wood, craft it into boards with no tools, craft those into planks, again…no tools.
ALL RIGHT ALL RIGHT. So the realism in Minecraft sucks too.
The focus of this rant is to discuss a certain change in video gaming trend that, in some ways, makes games more fun, but in others, lies to the consumer about what these developers are really delivering at the end of the day.
They’re still making those games. Mario too. But recall, if you will, something about those titles.
Mega Man had a health bar. You lost it, you died. Start over, champ. Try again.
But Mario? Mario was a real life, flesh-and-blood, by God…er, Nintendo, human being. He touched some bad juju, he freakin’ died.
But we don’t do that anymore, do we? Not very often. I mean now, we live in the day and age where a soldier on Call of Duty can take a thousand bullets to the groin before the screen turns red, then it takes another ten to actually kill him. What happened to “pay attention, idiot, or you’re going to get your ass handed to you?” What happened to the days where beating a game meant something other than “ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: LOST ANOTHER 200 HOURS OF YOUR LIFE?!”
Admittedly, I’ve lost 200 hours in a game before, but that’s besides the point.
I remember the first game I ever beat. Mega Man 2. Dr. Wily was a pain in the ass. But what really drove it home was that I remembered all the times I had to go back, struggle and grit my teeth through his fortress after curbstomping 8 of his hand-crafted love-bots. I’ve forgotten so many games I’ve played over the years because they were so unbelievably easy, or downright ridiculous, that they left no impact on me as a gamer.
And shooters. Oh the shooters. Call of Duty and Battlefield have been fighting it out for domination for years now. You’ve got the fanboys and fangirls in every arena.
How about Wolfenstein, or DOOM? Health meter. Don’t screw up, or you’re going to be lunch! You kept hunting for the ever-elusive health pack and armor shards, because every last one of them meant the difference between you standing victorious, or lying as a soulless skidmark on the floor of Hitler’s make-believe castle.
These days, games like Call of Duty and Battlefield talk about “realism” in their settings. Realistic guns, realistic locales, realistic characters with realistic stories. Realistic “possible futures.” All kinds of realism.
You know what ISN’T realistic? The health system. For as much as the gaming community seems to hate on it, take a series like Operation Flashpoint. Screw up, bullet to the brain, dead.
The last time I checked, soldiers don’t just duck behind cover, wait a second for the red tunnel to vanish, and suddenly the lethal hole blown in their face from bullets and grenades weaves itself back together and they’re peachy keen again.
Are you kidding me?
DayZ, back when it was a mod and not a standalone, gave you some realism. Wake up on a beach, nothing in your pockets, save for maybe some saltwater-drenched lint from whatever hellbound expedition brought you to that god-forsaken island. Perhaps you can eat it. No, better yet, let’s use it to start a fire! Now we’re talkin’!
Journey down the beach, find a small town. Grab a backpack left behind by some other unfortunate soul, find a little food, find a miraculously full, unopened bottle of water…
…don’t judge me. I said hyperbole. You’d never get this lucky in DayZ.
…meanwhile, pray to God a zombie doesn’t find you in the middle of town with your knickers around your ankles. The game might not be the prettiest, but you cherished every life, and it was infuriating when you died.
“That noob had gear I wanted, so I TOOK IT!”
That’s realism. Protect yourself or die.
I guess, in the simplest terms, stop using “realism” as a descriptor. Immersion works. Realism requires real consequences, real outcomes, real life. Pretty pictures don’t make realism. Death by Koopa Troopa in one hit makes realism.