Video games, at their best, are pure fantasy. They set up fantastical worlds and incredible situations that could never happen. These universes are designed for entertainment and have no need to rely on the same rules that the real world does.
Overly relying on realism in gaming regularly drags games down, and those that let their imagination run wild are raised above the rest. Games should be free to be based somewhat in reality to make them more engaging, but kneecapping the mechanics with real world rules is a big mistake.
Video game design isn’t easy. There are a lot of factors to consider when setting up the foundation for any game, shooter or otherwise. But when excessive realism is added into the mix, it makes things so much harder for the people that end up having to play the game.
Lots of modern shooters lean towards the more realistic in general, making them the most obvious perpetrator of this problem. It starts with the default settings of the game. For example, in the latest Call of Duty, motion blur and weapon blur are there as defaults. These simulate how eyesight works in real life: things blur at the edges of your vision, and they blur when you look around quickly. But in a video game, this isn’t helpful, and it actually works against you. It’s really hard to see enemies hiding in dark corners when your screen is blurring, which puts you at a disadvantage when playing competitive multiplayer.
In Black Ops 4‘s Battle Royale mode, Blackout, the game throws you in a wing-suit and has you to glide to your location. But Warzone abandons this to embrace realism. Instead, you’re given a hard to maneuver parachute that’s makes landing on your mark frustrating. Realism like this always seems out of place, especially when it’s combined with fantastical mechanics like the ability to re-open your parachute an infinite amount of times to help get you further on the map. It’s seems pointless for the game to make the parachute landing realistically challenging when it also includes a way to avoid the issue by spamming the reopen parachute function, also implying that there are dozens of parachutes strapped to your character’s back.
Many games include flying and ground-based vehicles that are loaded with convoluted controls and mechanics that just make gameplay more difficult than it needs to be. A game will never truly recreate what it’s like to fly a real helicopter or drive a real car, so trying to simulate it just makes games more frustrating without actually replicating the experience.
Realism becoming more and more prevalent in gaming, leaving some players expecting every game to be realistic. The Division and The Division 2 players complained that bosses took too many bullets to kill, some even going so far as to suggest that a single head shot should be enough to down them. This particular cry for realism leads to overly powerful weapons being implemented in a lot of first-person shooters, which also takes away the fun of playing with people who utilize these weapons.
Real life can be the basis for how games are designed, but developers should go lean further into escapism and fantasy in order to make games that are as fun as possible. A great example of this is the current king of battle royales: Fortnite.
With Fortnite, Epic Games has wholeheartedly ditched realism and embraced the fantastical, and it has paid off for them. The game’s features the ability to build various structures at the press of a button, pulling out materials from your back pockets and throwing together twelve story buildings in a minute flat. Guns are, of course, in this game too, but realism isn’t a factor aside from the basics of how they work. Fortnite has as arcade-like feel, which has helped make it one of the most popular games in the entire world.
Another game that proves that shooters don’t need realism to be fun and successful is Halo. The series has ditched realism, and done incredibly well in terms of commercial and critical success. In fact, the biggest complains people had about Halo: Reach were the instances where Bungie added more realistic mechanics. The addition of extra Bloom (which refers to the increase in bullet spread after firing continuously, lowering the player’s accuracy until they stop firing) sent shock-waves through the community. While this mechanic may be realistic, these weapons exist in a science fiction universe, so it’s not necessary to throw physics into them.
Realism is not inherently a bad thing. Many great games are based in reality, but a problem arises when developers choose to focus solely on making games as true-to-life as possible. Something is lost when games give up escapism and fantasy in favor or realism and, too often, what’s sacrificed is the fun.
Video games have come a long way in terms of graphics and mechanics, but something is lost when developers focus solely on making games realistic.