I am a huge fan of Team Fortress 2. From it's solid game play to its cartoon quality graphics that give some Pixar movies a run for their money. The game is a classic. Clearly the question of realism won't apply to every game we have available to occupy our time, but the discussion of realism is still an interesting one. It's a topic that keeps coming up so I'm going to blog about it. Perhaps some of you will share your thoughts.



re·al·ism [ree-uh-liz-uhm]


1. Interest in or concern for the actual or real, as distinguished from the abstract, speculative, etc.

2. The tendency to view or represent things as they really are.



I used to think I liked "realistic" games. Then I realized, none of them are. To be perfectly honest, I'm kind of glad they're not. At least not totally realistic or realistic in the sense of the traditional definition.



So I guess some clarification is in order.



I like realism in the sense that for the most part it's believable, but not so much that the fun factor actually suffers. On the other hand, I typically avoid games that throw every ounce of realism out the window and allow ridiculousness to run rampant.



Let me give you some examples to clarify.






No matter how advanced your flight simulator is, it does not even come close to flying a real plane, much less the latest and greatest fighter jet. It doesn't matter if you have the stick and throttle, pedals and instrument panels rigged up to your gaming machine, it’s simply not the same as the real deal.



I love flying the J10 in Battlefield 2, but clearly, the art of flying in this game is about as oversimplified as you can get. While it does have the basic principles of flight like speed and lift, you can fly worry free with no gauges or instruments to check. It's realistic in the sense that...well for one...you're under the affects of gravity. Slow down too much and you're going to feel it. Clip a tree or another plane and you're in trouble. Do a barrel roll and might just get that brief moment of disorientation. It's real enough that I feel like a virtual pilot and have fun, but it's not so real that I can't even take off.



This is the category of too real that I mentioned. Games like MS Flight Simulator and Falcon 4.0 are pretty harsh. Now, I'm sure the wannabe pilots that watch Top Gun over and over on the weekends love these games, where you have to click buttons on the cockpit dash, check your gauges, release the brakes and call into the radio tower. I'm not one of them. If I recall, the manual for Falcon 4.0 was the size of a college text book and contained a lot of unintelligible gibberish to most normal people who could care less about yaw and pitch and thrust.





I have a car that is kind of fast. It'll scoot down the road faster than I need it to. I've been driving a lot of years now and think I'm a fair driver. I've got a minor problem with road rage which may result in some irrational driving behavior, but for the most part. I do okay.



I like driving games. I've got a Force Feedback Wheel and pedals. (Actually I have 2, but one was a $99 set that I got at a yard sale for $5 - what a bargain. Works perfect.) I used to play some of the Need for Speed games and Grid. I was huge into Nascar 2003. These games were somewhat realistic, but certainly don't compare to driving some of the exotic cars available in real life. Well, to be honest - that's just my assumption, but in all fairness I've never driven a Viper or a Diablo - but I'm guessing driving one in real life would be slightly more exhilarating than driving one in Need for Speed. So again, realistic to a degree, but not so much it sucks. I had to dumb down Nascar 2003 to play (automatic transmission) because of everything that was going on. I prefer the games that have a damage component, because again, that sense of realism. Barreling through corners at a hundred miles an hour and bouncing off the wall or running people off the road without suffering any damage kind of seems a little lame and certainly doesn't seem like any kind of actual racing.






Sports games probably mimic realism the best, but there are a few exceptions. NBA Jam, for example, was beyond “out there”. In the game’s defense, it’s like the comment I made in the opening statement, where some games it’s just assumed it’s going to be crazy. So I don’t hold it against NBA Jam. I actually kind of like it. He’s on fire!



Fantasy / Science Fiction.



These games obviously get somewhat of a reprieve because they’re made up anyway, but there are ways to make the game feel more real. In Dante’s Inferno, when you fight some of the baddies, you don’t automatically absolve some of the damned, it’s a struggle and you have to work at it.



In Assassins Creed, your climbing and jumping from tall buildings is convincing even though it’s probably not very realistic. I suppose adding the piles of hay to soften the really high jumps (or falls) satisfies my desire for realism.






I like shooters, and I like the realistic military shooters, but I DON'T WANT my shooter games to be real. I like 1 shot, 1 kill...but I don't want to shoot a bad guy with a non-lethal shot and see them roll around on the ground writhing in pain. On the other hand, I don't want to shoot a guy in his big toe and have him down for the count. I'm fine with minimizing the depiction of real world wounds and affects, even though I like a realistic damage model. I like games that don't let you carry a dozen weapons on your back and infinite rounds of ammunition. Real, but not too real. Real, but not too ridiculous.



Okay...well hopefully that helps define what I'm talking about when I discuss realism. It's also important to note that just because games occur in the future or a different universe they can still bear a sense of realism. I think Halo is pretty realistic. Your weapons run out of ammo and the movements and mechanics of the game are realistic. I always feel bad when I crash a Warthog and roll it over on top of one of my passengers and kill them. I feel bad I really do...but hey, that's the realism element I'm referring to.




Okay, so I've talked about a few scenarios to back fill you on the realism discussion. Now, let me mention a few specific games.



There's been a lot of press coverage for Just Cause 2. Even GIO is running adverts for it. Just Cause 2 pushes the limits a bit too far for me. It reminds me of the last Die Hard sequel. If the realism is pushed too far, I'm out. I lose interest and move on. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are plenty of people who love "Just Cause 2"; I'm just not one of them. It’s too ridiculous for me.




Even games with a degree of realism that incorporate sequences that I find unrealistic annoy me. Far Cry 2, perhaps one of the most beautiful and visually stunning games with awesome effects like catching grass and trees on fire, drove me up the wall with the whole “heal yourself by pulling out your pliers and removing the bullet” routine. I hated that whole bit. Beautiful game marred by an unnecessary sequence.



Anyway, I’ve rattled on for so long I didn’t even get to the point I wanted to make concerning Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and it’s transformation from a realistic tactical shooter to what some are calling an arcade “whack a mole” style game. Okay, perhaps that’s a bit harsh, but it is clearly evolving into something beyond the realm of reality.



As always, comment if you want and share your thoughts on realism and its role in the games you choose to play.