A Rant About Realism

To say that the majority of us – this website’s staff included – are layman to reality isn’t an inaccurate or unfair statement. For every reality we’re exposed to, there’s likely to be millions, perhaps billions, we’re forced to omit from our limited perspectives. To say that video games allow us to indulge in an approximate re-telling other realities is one thing, but to use the word ‘realistic’ to describe a video game is, I’m afraid, something entirely ridiculous.

Realism, then, isn’t defined by a video game’s ability to mimic its reality-based counter-parts – it’s based on its ability to be able to meet that particular writer’s expectations. If said writers had been directly exposed to the aspects and elements that they claim are so realistically portrayed in video games then, perhaps – had they experienced a live combat scenario – they could be a fairer judge as to how true-to-life Operation Flashpoint is. Otherwise, by what standards do the majority of writers judge the accuracy of Codemaster’s military shooter?

And to say that the likes of Flashpoint are ’realistic’, is, quite frankly, offensive to those who expose themselves to live combat operations every single day. They don’t have the luxury of a ’pause’ button; they lack the ability to restart any given scenario; and what’s more, they have to deal with the emotional, mental and physical consequences. We, as would-be armchair soldiers, don’t . If a pseudo-simulation of weapons exchange is considered to be an enjoyable experience, then, by definition, it’s not a simulation. Presumably, a realistic shooter would be stressful and overwhelming for most hardened civilian – and that’s at an absolute minimum.

Marketing and reviews for driving simulations, too, are guilty of this. To say a driving game is ‘realistic’ would ultimately require a detailed understanding (and an ungodly amount of time behind the wheel) of each vehicle. Of course, it’s understandable to deduce whether or not the experience is an enjoyable one, but realistic, I’m not entirely sure. Despite the fact that cars require drivers – people who could be killed at almost any instance due to personal or competitive negligence – developers (perhaps for legitimate reasons) deliberately neglect to include this aspect.

Fallout 3 could be described, as I’ve heard it said, as a realistic game: the player can become addicted to drugs; they’re able to eat, drink and sleep; and they’re able to interact with a vast array of characters scattered throughout the game’s post-apocalyptic wasteland. Yet, as with almost every video game to carry some semblance to realism, the game segment always gets in the way. Players are incapable of being able to see their own lower body, posses the ability to transport to almost any given point in the world and able to freeze time and accurately pinpoint a specific section of an enemy’s person.

Video games, by definition, are not and cannot be realistic. Nor do they need to be. With every subsequent generation, prior use of the word ’realistic’ will appear subsequently more ridiculous – what’s considered ’realistic’ now in a video game, will be literally laughable in a decade to come. So, reviewers and reps, please don’t use the word ’realistic’.

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