We love realistic games, don’t we?
When I pummel Russians with bullets, I want to see blood. When I kill pedestrians with my truck, back up and do it again, I giggle at the sound of cracking bones. Naturally, when I ram a helicopter into a building, I crave an epic explosion.
OK, I’ll tone it down a bit; but I’m just being honest.
Realism in video games is awesome, and it’s evolving at an extraordinary pace. Back in the day, Grand Theft Auto was played from a 2D, overhead perspective. Driving was virtually impossible (which is why it was so dang funny). Now, GTA V is poised to be a photorealistic experience beyond any other.
And that’s what gamers want, right? The most realistic graphics and gameplay ever?
Before you say yes, watch this video. In it, BeamNG, a young company developing real-time physics simulation engines, shows you how things move. I mean how they really move. Realistically. IGN says it’s the “most impressive physics engine you’ve never seen,” (because you just don’t see this kind of realism… yet).
If physics like this played a part in video games, then high-speed chases and races would be very boring. One bad crash and it’s game over. Back to the loading screen.
How frustrating would Grand Theft Auto be if every time you hit the curb, your alignment got all jacked-up? The cops would haul you out in seconds. How lame would it be if every time you hit a wall in Gran Turismo or The Need for Speed you couldn’t just throw her in reverse and get back on the track?
“The effects of a real life, high-speed collision on a car are catastrophic. In video games, however, things are different. Technical ceilings, licensing hurdles and other factors have long conspired to keep car damage relatively superficial; a pre-canned layer beneath the surface, peeled back gradually whenever the game detects the player should be seeing a few token dents and scratches.” - Luke Reilly, Games Editor at IGN AU.
In real life—you know, the reality that happens when you turn off the TV?—if you ram your car through traffic, it’s not going to get you far. If you lose control and slam into a tree, the airbags will probably knock you out. Also, if you tried bailing from a helicopter, you wouldn’t survive a 3,000 foot drop into the ocean. (I tried that once in GTA Liberty City and survived. Didn’t get fatigued or eaten by sharks, either. Not real.)
So what do gamers really want?
To escape into another world. To engage our minds—or mindlessly destroy everything and anything. To be the hero. To tap into our dark side. Basically, to have fun, relax and be entertained.
Realistic games don’t fulfill all those needs. In fact, they could intensify real life and eliminate the fantasy. Womp-womp!
Think about some of the unrealistic elements to games. Would you want to change any of these?
- One bullet never kills you. It generally takes a good three to eight hits—and then you always regenerate health. And what’s up with never running out of ammo? “Oh! Look! There’s a clip of the exact ammo I need on this dead guy! How convenient.”
- Los Angeles doesn’t look like that. Even when developers pour their blood, sweat, and DNA into recreating realistic cities (like the guys at Ubisoft who spent months photographing places in Italy for Assassin’s Creed), they’re all tweaked a little. For the flow of the game, of course. A dungeon here, a secret tunnel there, a lama on that hill…
- Plow through dozens of people and keep on truckin’. Gross visual in real life, eh? Some developers are wising up. Now, if you smash into too many buildings, people, cars, or other random elements, sooner or later your engine will catch fire and you’ll need to bail. That’s a step in the right direction, but I’m pretty sure if my MINI Cooper rear-ended anything, it would be all over.
- Zombies, aliens, talking animals. None of these things are real, but that’s OK. That’s what we want. Sure, we can keep having the Russians be the bad guys ’till kingdom come. But human vs. human is a bit dull nowadays.
- Everything your character has to do. Like, and not limited to: Saving the world. Saving the galaxy. Taking out hundreds of bad guys single-handed. Getting away without a scratch. Swinging war-hammers, chainsaws, and swords (really, no back pain?). Finding lost treasure (with just a hunch and luck?). And not eating, sleeping, or using the potty—unless you’re in Skyrim. C’mon, everyone has to poop. Even the Dragonborn.
Frankly, we crave over-the-top chaos and impossible circumstances. I would rather slay pesky dragons than pesky cockroaches. I would rather be a gangster in Vice City (with unlimited power!) than a terrorist hiding in a hole in Afghanistan (reading comic books?). And I would rather detonate explosives under a Humvee and watch my squad soar thousands of feet into the air than… err… not do that and be dead because it couldn’t happen.
Maybe it comes down to this: Gamers want graphics to be as realistic as possible, from the grass to the clouds. From a character’s facial expressions to the reflections in water. Just don’t kill the fantasy. Tweak everything: Make explosions bigger. Cars faster. And then let us do the impossible in what appears to be a very realistic world.