I’ve never been a big fan of people who complain that something isn’t realistic when it comes to a story. At some point we have to recognize that a story constructed by an author isn’t going to be entirely realistic. They’re written for the express purpose of entertainment or enjoyment on the part of the audience. But I think the complaint gets even more ridiculous when it’s leveled at a video game.
So today let’s look at several reasons why video games aren’t realistic (and never should be).
1. Getting Hurt
You get shot. What do you do? It’s easy. You just crouch behind a wall for a few seconds and wait for the wound to heal.
Oh…wait a second…I don’t think that’s how it works.
In real life, when you get shot, you can’t just magically heal the damage seconds later. Neither can you pick up a medical kit and not suffer from a bullet wound immediately after its use. Instead, getting shot usually involves a trip to the hospital and a lot of pain. And if there’s no exit wound that means the bullet or bullets are still in your body and need to be extracted, which means even more pain. And after all of that, you still need to spend days, even weeks in the hospital to recuperate. The human body isn’t an instantaneous healer. It needs time to do its thing.
Can you imagine if a game actually did that? You get shot and you’re not allowed to play for several days because your character needs to heal. Sounds boring right?
2. Wanton Death and Destruction
Like, holy crap, there’s so much death. THERE’S SO MUCH DEATH.
Ever heard of the game Dead Rising? It’s a game about the dead, and how they rise. Pretty self-explanatory.
Well there’s an achievement in the game called Zombie Genocider which you unlock after killing 53,594 zombies in a single playthrough of the story mode. Why such a specific number?
Because it’s the total population of the town the game takes place in.
Yep, that’s right. When you unlock this achievement the game is literally saying “hey congratulations, you just slaughtered an entire town!” And not only that, but there’s still zombies running around. What, are the zombies having zombie babies or something?
Nope. It’s just the game developers cheeky way of pointing out that games aren’t realistic. If you could completely depopulate the game world of enemies it would not only make the game too easy, but it would be boring as well. And that’s not even mentioning how unrealistically violent and over the top Dead Rising is. This is a game where you fight zombies with items including but not limited to: katanas, water guns, beach balls, televisions, guitars, pistols, assault rifles, cars, hockey sticks, footballs, grenades, and cash registers. The hyper violent nature shows us that it was never meant to emulate real life.
And then there’s Grand Theft Auto. Oh boy…Grand Theft Auto.
Despite how the games try to re-create a real life city, the games themselves are not realistic in the slightest. I mean imagine you’re driving down a road, just going to the grocery store or something, when suddenly some jerk in a military helicopter (which he somehow managed to steal from a HEAVILY GUARDED MILITARY COMPOUND) flies by and blows you up with rockets. No reason, no provocation…just mindless violence. And now you’re dead.
Real life is not this dangerous (despite what the media might want you to think). People don’t just break out into wanton rampages of death and destruction while carrying multiple pistols, assault rifles, a rocket launcher, a minigun and dozens of grenades. It just doesn’t happen. And furthermore, when they’re finally stopped, they don’t just get out of the hospital or jail six hours later. They’re either dead or on death row.
Video games are meant as escapist fantasies. They’re meant to be unrealistic. People have the ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality. Sorry Jack Thompson but it’s true, no matter how vigorously you crusade against video games or how antagonistic you are towards people who disagree with you.
Maybe that’s why you got disbarred from practicing law. Just a thought.
I mentioned this before, but real life is not scripted in the same way as a story is in a video game, book, or movie. You don’t run into, say, some homeless guy and think to yourself “I bet this character will show up later on in my life. Is he the antagonist in disguise? A mentor of sorts? Some strange alien being trying to guide me to the right path?” You’re far more likely to think to yourself “man that guy looks lazy…why doesn’t he just get a job?” Well, far more likely if you’re an uptight jerk that is.
In real life people enter and exit your life without rhyme or reason. In a carefully constructed story crafted by an author, every little thing has some significance or purpose. The aforementioned homeless guy provides us with a good example. If he appears in a story, the author likely wants you to pay attention to how the character interacts with him. Does the interaction hint at some kind of development down the line. Is the character someone else in disguise, and if so how does the author foreshadow this? It might not even be something as large-scale as that. The homeless guy might just serve as a character building tool. Does the main character stop and give him money? Does he continue on his way but regret his decision later? Does he spurn the man, calling him a “lazy piece of trash”? Moments like this can tell us much about the protagonist’s state of mind and his way of viewing the world.
In real life only you know your inner thoughts. Well…you and the Illuminati. Because the Illuminati knows all.
No I didn’t make a post about conspiracy theories a couple of weeks ago. I have no idea what you’re talking about.
4. Real World Needs Don’t Matter
In life you need to eat. You need to drink. You need to use the bathroom. You need to sleep. And so on and so forth.
But when I make my character in Fallout 4 stay up for an entire week exploring the dystopian ruins of Boston, he doesn’t complain. He doesn’t fall asleep on his feet. His stomach doesn’t grumble and he doesn’t die from dehydration. Because he’s dead inside…a soulless husk…a puppet controlled by my whims and commands. Maybe he doesn’t want to kill those people. Maybe he doesn’t like using guns. It doesn’t matter. I am in control.
Because I AM GOD.
Take a deep breath…going mad with power again…deep breath, deep breath…
In all seriousness though games usually don’t bother making you tend to real world needs of your characters (unless you’re playing survival games, but even then the requirements for eating and drinking are usually skewed for the sake of making the game fun to play). You don’t want to be blowing things up and causing chaos when suddenly your character says “man…I could really use a burger”. Ain’t nobody got time for your burger man. We got stuff to explode.
Video game characters don’t need to eat, drink, sleep, or even go to the bathroom most of the time. They are but digital representations of people, bound only by the logic game developers create for them. They might not even speak, as is the case for many a silent protagonist in video games.
So here’s the thing, if you’re going to be complaining about how it’s unrealistic that a character could survive some explosion and make it out alive, you might as well be complaining that they don’t eat, sleep, take a piss, and so on. Realism for realism’s sake doesn’t really belong in a video game. Realism should serve the purpose of fun for the game, tweaked and modified as necessary to keep the player engaged and enjoying the experience. I can’t imagine how I would have felt playing Myst if the player character suddenly needed to pee. Well guess what? There are no bathrooms on the island of Myst. Nope, not a single one.
Looks like you’re peeing in the ocean bro.
Thanks for reading. Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week!