September 20, 2012 by gunheekid
Realism in Gaming and its Relation to the Gamer
Link to article:http://www.gamestudies.org/0401/galloway/
Through the decades of video game development and evolution, realism and realistic-ness has been a goal of many creators. Creators and developers have all tried to achieve greater graphics with more polygon counts or tried to achieve more lifelike physics and lifelike actions of the characters in a game. Galloway, in his article “Social Realism in Gaming,” states that realism in gaming should be based on the relationship between the game and the gamer and how the it relates to the particular gamer’s everyday life.
Galloway, in his article, clarifies that realism and realistic-ness is not the same thing; if they were the same thing, then a fantasy game about aliens with better graphics would be more realistic than a sports game, which is not the case. So realism does not refer to the graphical or visual extent of a game. Bruno Reichlin is quoted in the article, saying that neorealism in Italian literature is: “a surgical examination of matters of society; a documentary attention to the everyday”. This definition of realism also applies to video games. A game with realism should reflect specific activities that exist in the social reality of the gamer.
Galloway claims that realism in gaming should reflect on everyday life (its struggles, dramas, and injustices). He also states that the level of realism a game differs from gamer to gamer; realism is the relationship between the game and gamer’s everyday life, and each gamer has a different everyday life. An example Galloway gives is the game Special Forces, which is a first person shooter from the perspective of the Palestinians in war. The game would be vastly more realistic to Palestinian gamers in occupied territories than it would to a casual American teenage gamer who has no relation to the anti-Israeli violence presented in the game.
I personally think that Galloway’s definition of realism in gaming is extremely subjective, since it differs from player to player. Galloway is saying that realism in a game is different for every single player that plays the game, depending on their life experiences and their social reality. Although it is a very subjective definition of realism, it does work. For instance, if we are looking at the narrative of a game, if elements of the narrative are present in our social realities, like the game Special Forces described earlier, it will be more realistic to us than to a person whose social reality doesn’t revolve around the narrative.
But realism in gaming does not necessarily make the game better. In fact, I personally think that games that are not realistic and present things that are fiction and fantastical are actually more enjoyable to play. Huizinga’s idea of the magic circle involves games transporting you into a ‘virtual world’. I think that part of the reason why we play video games is to experience being in this ‘virtual world’ and to actually escape reality. I know from personal experience that I like to play games that are no where near what my social realities are like. Games such as Assassin’s Creed or Uncharted allow you to experience whole new areas and times periods of the world, and allow you to control a character that is athletically mobile. I know for a fact that for most gamers, their social realities don’t revolve around parkour and killing people.
Sometimes the most realistic games are not actually all that fun. In modern gaming, there is a phenomenon called gameification, which is turning everyday life tasks into a game. For example, there is a game on the iphone which is only about brushing teeth; the objective of the game is to brush teeth. This is an element that is present in almost ever gamer’s lives and their social realities. But playing a game about brushing teeth is not very enjoyable. Not to say that some realistic games are not fun, since there are realistic games, such as driving games, card games, drawing games, etc. that are incredibly fun and addictive to play.
The article presented the idea of realism in gaming being decided by the player’s social reality rather than graphics and increasing the polygon count. But I think that most gamers play games to try to experience something that their world and their social realities don’t offer them. Fantasy games that are completely unrealistic and out of this world are sometimes the most enjoyable to play.