How Realistic is Too Realistic? (Part 2/Response to Comment)

In my last article, I discussed how I thought that sometime in the future (whether it is near or far) games could become so realistic that they become too realistic for their own good. In response, one of my frequent readers (A Voice) had this to say about my approach to the topic:

You need to make the distinction between graphic fidelity and gameplay, then explore the issue from those two points because one neither necessarily includes or excludes the other. This post is problematic because you seem to be conflating the issues at some points and talking about one or the other at other points, something that utterly confuses the entire discussion. I hope you can see how this lack of clarity presents problems for the thesis sentence in the middle of the first paragraph, viz. are video games reaching a point where they will become too realistic to be enjoyed?

The first thing I would like to say is, “thank you.” I enjoy seeing what you have to say about what I write. I see why you say that the two aspects of graphics and gameplay are distinct, yet at the same time, dependent. I have two reasons why I stuck the two issues together, but talked about one or the other at some points. First, I didn’t quite realize it was necessary to distinguish the two, because (reason 2) I feel they way they depend on each other is more important in this situation than how they’re apart.

What do I mean? Well, at this point, will you be enveloped in a game that has a good mechanics and good mechanics, but PS2-level graphics? If you’re used to playing games with current-gen standards, it’ll be a bit disconcerting to play a modern game that looks old. On the flipside, if you play a beautifully rendered game, but the mechanics are absolutely broken, will you find yourself engulfed in the virtual world? Probably not.

It’s the combination of visual beauty and seamless gameplay that will allow a gamer to become so enveloped in the game that he or she regards it with more awe than reality. Of course, the two separate aspects (graphics and gameplay) are each important in their own right, they are much more important when glued together, in my opinion. When they come together perfectly, you get the game that defines a genre or even a generation.

Which of the two is the more important aspect? Personally, I feel that the mechanics and features of a game are more important. Pulling from things I state earlier, you could make a highly enveloping game by including voice recognition and comprehension. Another aspect is having a slicker UI, and having better controls is also important.

With that being said, you have to have at least decent graphics to make the mechanics of a game pop; they don’t have to be great, but at the very least, decent. When the graphics and physics of a game rival the superiority of the mechanics, an even greater game will be created.

So, in the end, I hope you can understand why I tended to clump the two together. Subconsciously, my mind realized just how important the two aspects were when intertwined, and although it may have come off as a bit confusing, I guess I can’t help that much.

I’m not a perfect writer; I’ll grow and learn how to more clearly state what I believe, but for now, I’m just sticking my opinions out there to the best of my abilities. Comments like this, which prod me to do better, are helping me grow as a writer, and will hopefully help my as I graduate high school and head off to college; I appreciate the input and feedback greatly.

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Always Opinionated


2 thoughts on “How Realistic is Too Realistic? (Part 2/Response to Comment)”

  1. Two points,

    First, one thing that I thought you may have mentioned but didn’t (likely due to your age when you first got into gaming and what you were exposed to at that point) was Manhunt by Rockstar Games. Manhunt is pretty much the conceptual marriage of the films 8MM and Running Man, but is remarkably graphic and realistic. When you mentioned veterans potentially having PTSD triggered from very realistic games (visuals and gameplay), I thought that would be a perfect fit and the issue that you were really aiming at tackling.

    The more critical responses we receive, pulling apart weak aspects of our arguments and showing us hidden gems that we could have but didn’t explore, the better we can become as writers and thinkers. I’m glad that I’m able to provide you with critical feedback and I’m glad that you are able to utilise it the way you do.

    Second, when you say ‘decent’ what exactly do you mean with respect to graphics? Photo-realism tends to be what younger video game players (teenagers to early twenties) accept as a graphical standard. Graphics that tend to be considered ‘decent’ are ones that don’t deviate too much from this, so games like the new Saints Row and GTA entries are likely to be looked at as ‘decent’ but when graphics in games like Don’t Starve or The Adventures of Shuggy are likely to be panned.

    It seems to me that decent and good graphics are those that fit the game world and atmosphere, something that may or may not dovetail into the issue of realism. For example, the graphics of a game like Quake are inarguably dated by today’s standards but I believe they hold up very well. I still jump on occasion when a Spawn bounces around the corner at me and not just because the there’s something coming at me on the screen, the graphics fit so well with the atmosphere of the game that I’m able to immerse myself, able to be sucked in.

    This brings me to a tangential point, where there is the question of whether or not players are able to allow themselves to be drawn into the game, whether they are able to (psychologically/emotionally/intellectually) put themselves in the game and let it carry them away. When I played through Dead Island as Sam B (both on the PS3 and PC, it’s a damn fine game) I was simply sucked right into the game. I felt a visceral satisfaction as I was able to overcome the long odds of getting out of each environment, of mastering the ability to fight those zombies hand-to-hand and feel like I was in real control of my destiny on the island and, most importantly, I felt so very bad for Jin (http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=141379932).

    Perhaps, much like the ability to immerse ourselves in a game, ‘realism’ depends in a very real way upon us.

    1. You’re right; I’ve never heard of Manhunt, and I’m guessing it’s a bit before my time.
      And when I say “decent graphics,” it kind of differs from game to game, and you’re right, each game will need a different standard for graphics; what is considered decent for one game or genre isn’t for another, and a lot of that also comes down to art and animation style. COD has decent graphics, but so does Limbo; for different reasons, of course. However, if you compare COD to another military shooter that has even less polish (because let’s face it, COD isn’t exceptionally pretty) you might say that the graphics aren’t decent enough, considering what we’re used to as a standard for the genre these days, if that makes sense. If DeadRising (the original) came out today, we would puke at the graphics, but when it released, everyone was amazed that they could fit so many zombies on one screen.

      You’re right about your final point as well; a game can be beautiful graphically and in gameplay, but if we don’t allow ourselves to be enveloped and enjoy it, it means nothing.

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