What is realism in games and is it needed at all? (Topic)

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What is realism in games and is it needed at all?


We often hear that this or that game is realistic. That the developer has added elements to the game that make it realistic, so it will be hardcore. Often this fact is presented as something a priori good, they say, realism in games is a sign of a good project, and not a piece of casual you know what for the gray mass. But, is it really as good as they like to tell us? This concept is often manipulated to make us love the project in advance.

Realism and Realism

What games can we call realistic in general? If everything is clear with the graphics, then from the point of view of the mechanic the game that best reflects our life on computer screens is realistic. But here the catch is that a realistic game from an unrealistic one is distinguished by the number of different details that make the gameplay sometimes more interesting, and sometimes much more difficult and crap.

It is important to understand that realism and realism are two different things. When we say "realistic play," we mean that it contains details that would look the same in our life, or could exist in it. For example, The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt is pretty realistic.


If you look at Geralt's movement or his movements in battle - his steps are smooth, you can see how he uses force to counterattack, strike. You understand that there is a share of choreography, everything in life would look like this. And if we compare this with the same DMC, then Neuro or Dante move too sharply, the fight is as dynamic as possible with dizzying techniques, and we can say that the game is not realistic. Returning to The Witcher, let's think, is there realism in the game? No, as this is a fantasy.


Realism is what they tried to achieve in Kingdom Come: Deliverance, recreating the Middle Ages. This is Arma 3, where you can see the realities of a real military battle, where you first need to land for half an hour and go to the point of operation, and then crawl on the ground for the same amount of time to die from one sniper bullet. This is DayZ, where the setting of the zombie apocalypse cannot be called real, but the conditions of survival are as close as possible to what they are. This and any simulator of a farmer, scavenger, etc.


In other words, realism is when at one moment you turn off the game with the words: "No thanks, if I wanted to get tired, I would do it in reality."


Your game is harder than my life

Basically, we play games in order to get out of reality for a while, so why make the game so realistic that we get even more tired in it? Most of the realistic simulations are made only to show the routine of this or that profession, spheres of life, whether it be a simulator of a scavenger, a construction worker or taking LSD [such a routine, I know]. Often all of them are as boring as possible and exist for a narrow audience.

From the point of view of game design, it makes no sense for you to complicate the game with excessive realism, since it will simply be unplayable. Many CIS projects have suffered, and still do, suffer from this disease. I don’t know what caused such a zeal in the Slavic gameplay to do as many realistic features as possible, but very few people do it well.

My favorite example is the old game Xenus: Boiling Point. The action takes place in poor Colombia, so it is logical to assume that the locals will try to rip off money from you whenever possible, and this was taken into account in the game. Also, you could develop a dependence on drugs due to their frequent use, weapons could jam, and you received damage to certain limbs that needed to be treated. It looks ambitious, but in the end it all interfered with the game, and turned it into an unreasonably difficult pay to win. I even keep quiet about the fact that Xenus was made crookedly ...


The disease of unsubstantiated realism at times affects the western and eastern gamedev. Nobody forbids adding realism to the game, or making it the basis of the whole project. The main thing is to know your audience and it is reasonable to add realism for the sake of context, not for the sake of realism.


Take Dwarf Fortress - the game is extremely complex and how detailed it is with a big swing for realism. You need to manage a settlement of dwarves, each of which has a fully realistically functioning body. Someone's leg was broken, someone's eye was torn out and he went blind, while an infection was brought there - deal with this. You need to monitor the weather, resources, disease, alcoholism of the people, the economy, trade and 50 more indicators. Here total realism is the very essence of the game and it is appropriate, because without this, Dwarf Fortress would not be itself. The same situation with Arma and Day Z.


And here's an example of inappropriate realism is Shenmue. There are many side activities in the game that spoil it. It happens that you have an appointment at 9 pm, and you still have 2 hours outside of the game, but there is no standby mode. You just have nothing to do and you suffer from bullshit. Or a mission where you had to spend the whole week visiting warehouses and working as a loader. Is it realistic? Certainly. Is it interesting? No.


Eh, let's start the game! Eh, let's live!

Often they try to insert realism into games for role-playing, which was done in Kingdom Come: Deliverance. In it, all elements of realism were introduced so that you completely feel like a medieval boy who aspires to become a warrior. And partly it turned out to be done, but not completely. Today I would call the game an example of correct realism, but even here the symptoms of unreasonable complication are present.


An example of roleplaying: you came to a character, but he is not, because you are late for a meeting. Well, while walking, I got hungry. The bag contains moonshine and a couple of apples. I ate and drank everything, went for a walk. Moonshine inserted in such a way that it doesn’t bear childishly at all, bumped into the guards, and they were thrown into prison for drunkenness. Came out the next day and finally got to the right character.

However, over time, you realize that despite all this realism, your character acts independently: he speaks for you, he makes decisions himself, and they do not coincide with yours. And as such, there is no role-playing, and realistic things only interfere, and sometimes even come to naught.


So, adding hunger to the game, the developer planned that when we go on a journey, we fill the bag with provisions. But he did not foresee that the players would simply burst into other people's houses and eat stew from cauldrons with impunity. All realism collapses.

The less realistic the better

From the right perspective of game design, realism has value when it doesn't stop the game from being unrealistic. The best example is the perennial question about the knife and the bazooka. Have you ever wondered that often in games a knife has the same power as a bazooka and kills in one go? A rifle kills with two bullets, and a knife with one click. Yes it is, but this is a game convention. And the more harmless this convention is implemented, the more realistic the game will seem to us. The fact that we kill with a knife once does not prevent us from believing that this is realistic. Especially if the kill animation is well done.

In the same Mafia 2, as in Shenmue, there is a level with loading boxes. But only in Mafia, after the third box, you realize that this is not interesting and the game will offer you to skip this option. We can say that the game is very realistic, but we are not forced to get tired of it. You can drag and drop all the boxes for the sake of achievement if your heart desires, but you don't have to. You can refuel your car, but the game will not force you to refuel it every half hour.


A good game that claims to be realistic or even realistic should give you the ability to do what you could do in life, but not force you to do it. This is the key difference between good, realistic games and projects with unreasonable realism. After all, games are primarily needed for entertainment and storytelling, and not for the sake of forcing you to constantly look at the indicator of your hunger, skipping the plot, and even listening to that this is real hardcore gaming. Realism and realism in games are definitely needed, but , as with everything, context and balance are important.

The Topic of Article: What is realism in games and is it needed at all?.
Author: Jake Pinkman