Sweat dripping from a human head. Water pouring down a mountain. An expensive car driving around an open road. A smile from a photo that looks attainable. These descriptions highlight the principle of realism in video games. Something so graphical that you would think it a video taken in real time by an actual human; but in fact, it was designed on a computer with limitless software. As Sony, Microsoft, and other massive companies are trying to achieve this sort of realism when you play, there is a level that might seem a bit extreme.
We know games are for escapism.They are supposed to provide some entertainment, fun, and at times, relaxing. With that being said, not all games were designed to be that way. In some way, the level of realism isn’t about the graphical nature of the game, but the subject the game is built around.
After the Columbine High School massacre, Danny Ledonne made an indie game titled Super Columbine Massacre RPG that would put you in the role of the shooters. You gain levels by killing students and other staff members in the game. He wanted to enter it into the Slamdance Festival but was rejected. In April 2005, the game was available for download to be played.
That may have been too real and a touchy subject. Though the game was created to get an idea how that day must have felt, it proved traumatizing for the students and families. It did contribute to the discussion of how real a game should be. Should traumatic events be turned into a game? For a deeper dive, examine the controversy surrounding Six Days Of Fallujah.
When games feel too real or it’s based on a real life event, people feel that it is too realistic. There’s a fear that these games would re-traumatize people rather than providing entertainment. Developers fear parents might listen to concerned pundits who don’t play games and allow them to misrepresent a game because of the content it carries. Without the people knowing the full context, they’ll just deem it detestable.
Yet, fictional, action packed, over the top games and movies can still be created and released. Realism in games will only be unbearable, once the events happen in the real world. To some, that realism simply yields an achievement or trophy that won’t last with them after they trade the game in or delete it from their system. To others, the graphic representation is something that affects them deeply.
As of now, realism in games is monitored by evaluators, pundits, and the ESRB. These titles with which we engage are telling a deeper, meaningful, and immersive story. Perhaps when games get too real, for some it stops being a game.
When does a game become too real for you? Let us know in the comments or on our Discord.