Game Philosopher

The philosophy of games and gaming

Do you really want realism?

Posted by gamephilosopher on September 12, 2006

Every time a Role Playing Game comes out, someone is screaming about realism and how it’s not realistic when this happens and it would be more realistic if that happened. Well let me ask you something. Do you really want realism? Let’s talk about a few things.

Above all, you want the game to be fun, right? Well the problem is that real life isn’t fun in the same way that a game is fun.

Think for a second if you were playing a game based on The Fellowship of the Ring book and it was very realistic. Would you want to spend the day walking? No spiders attacking or magical caves to explore, just walking. That would be realistic, but extremely boring. Part of what made the book exciting was that the plot was being revealed to you word by word, and you feared for the lives of the party members. Think about the beginning of Frodo’s adventure when the 4 hobbits have just left the Shire.

While reading the book, you were excited because you were rooting for the hobbits.

If you were Frodo in real life, you’d be scared to death of the prospect of being found.

If you were playing the game, you would be bored by the prospect of being found.

What I’m trying to illustrate is that there’s a big disconnect between what you may find fun or exciting in real life and what you find to be fun while playing a game.

I’m sorry if I sound a little obtuse – I understand that the lack of mounted combat in Oblivion was nothing short of a tragedy; there definately are exceptions.

The last time I complained to myself about lack of realism in a game I got what is known as a “Fed-ex quest” which is where you are given an item and asked to deliver it to some other person in a different town. All you have to do is take the item and walk over to the other person and give it to them. For that you get some money, experience, or a reward of some kind.

Now that’s not really that realistic, is it? I don’t even know this guy and he’s giving me his sacred vial of angel semen to deliver to the Shaman by the lake, and on top of all that, the Shaman is going to know about this arrangement and have money and/or a reward waiting? Come on people, lets be more realistic.

Ok, let’s talk about how we could inject some realism into the situation.

We could get to know the guy before he trusts us with handling his sacred artifacts!?! In real life, how do you get to know someone? Have a beer with them? Get them hired on at your job so you hang out more? Go bowling? Where does the line get drawn where you stop playing a game and start playing a real life simulator? Would you really want to listen to his blabbering about his wife and kids, lawn, house, dog, whatever or would you just end up clicking right past it?
How about having to go back to the quest-giver for your reward instead of expecting it at your destination? This is actually not a bad idea, but it forces you to travel all the way back to the beginning of your quest to complete it – something some people may find tedious and therefore not fun.

I think the actual solution is to not HAVE Fed-Ex quests at all, but then we lose out on a lot of oppotunities for quests and this makes game designers unhappy.

Also remember that quests in the beginning of a game are designed to be easy and quick so you can finish them in such a way that you are constantly gratified so you continue playing and don’t stop playing.

I’m rambling here, so I’ll sum up. Remember next time you complain about the lack of reality in your game that you may just be asking for something you’re really not willing to play, and that someone probably has thought about this thoroughly before you and hasn’t come up with anything better.

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