Let’s start by imagining two different scenarios.
One: You’re walking down a busy high street towards an intersection; people are walking along besides you mindlessly going about their daily business. Some of those you pass you think have just passed you in the opposite direction and many of whom seem to be wearing the same style of shirt- but maybe it’s some sort of fashion craze and those guys have twins, so you let it pass you by. As you approach the intersection you see a car come speeding down the road, hitting a pedestrian and causing him to fly 200 meters along the tarmac. The car having hit the poor man then swerves into what appears to be a rickety fence only to be stopped dead causing the driver to fly out of the windscreen full pelt. As you stand observing the situation you see the other passers-by deem not to notice the accident so you begin to rush over to help the poor man hit by the speeding car. Only, he’s just stood up. Yelling and waving his arms above his head he runs down the street seemingly fine regardless of his surely bone shattering incident. You turn your attention then to the driver, who also having had a deadly collision has gotten up and begun walking down the street casually. You deem the entire event bizarre and carry on.
Two: You’re a blue alien with 4 arms walking along a fluorescent street. The light from the two differently toned moons hanging in the sky lights the world in an eerie yet beautiful glow. As you carry along you see many aliens of different shapes and sizes, many are alike but without any noticeable attire you figure they’re just of the same species. As you continue you see a hover car come speeding along the street, colliding with a massive green alien with two heads – sending his limbs flying in all sorts of directions. The hover car, having made the collision, veers off to the right, hitting what could best be described as a lamp post in this odd world, causing the vehicle to pinwheel down the street until it comes to a rest on its roof. As you stand observing the accident you see the tall green alien’s limbs are beginning to move across the floor, pooling to the point of collision. You watch as each of the limbs begin to reassemble themselves creating a slightly disjointed, but nevertheless complete version of the alien that was once in tiny pieces among the ground. Once reassembled, the alien begins hopping his way along the street – apparently this must happen often. You turn to the driver to see him hitting his vehicle with some sort of wrench causing it to eventually flip back over, its engine purring. The driver gets back in and drives off. You shrug and carry on your business.
So, why the two stories? Well, the first point to make would be to ask which would you deem to be more believable? Obviously the two incidents are set in completely different worlds, one set in our own and one set in a fictional environment – if the pedestrian in the first scenario was to reassemble his limbs like that it would be pretty dang weird to observe and may make me run home and lock the door. It’s all to do with the semiotic sphere of understanding created in the two tales, the second scene begins unrealistically as (hopefully) you are not a blue alien and so because of this you become more open to the bizarre occurring around you. If the rules of the world don’t behave as you would expect it’s easier to brush off because the rules are broken from the start. In the first example, everything appears as you would expect up until the collision – people hit at high speed will not just get up and run away and nor will the driver just idly walk from his vehicle (unless of course they suffered some pretty severe concussion.)
The point to be made here regards with the concept of ‘realism in games’, the first scene is not a million miles away from the sandbox worlds created in games such as GTA- where great lengths are taken to ensure the rules of that world react similarly to those of our own. This of course, is mute from the start. Games ARE unrealistic and whilst we suspend our disbelief when entering into them, the closer they try to mimic our own reality the harder they fall and the illusion is broken when something unexpected happens- bringing us crumbling back into our own world.
The second scene makes you suspend your disbelief much harsher from the get go, throwing you into a world where the rules are unknown and so anything can happen and still be deemed as acceptable by your psyche- maintaining your belief and presence within what has been deemed ‘the Magic Circle’ of semiotic understanding. If you fall 100 feet and get back up again or you’re hit by a bullet and magically heal yourself when cowering behind a fence – it becomes more acceptable and believable in this environment.
So what am I getting at exactly? Well, my point is that although realistic simulations are fun, they can never match up to the believability of a completely imagined world. The strive for more realistic interpretations of our own rules and visuals in video games cripples many titles- think of how many games you’ve played where the graphics and physics have been ‘next-gen’ but when it comes down to it, the gameplay and narrative sucks eggs or has all been done before?
The conclusion? Less time making pretty, more time making fun- because let’s face it, real life blows. Why spend you’re game time in it?