Monday, February 8, 2010

Realism vs. Fun a false dichotomy. An inaccurate oversimplification that ignores a number of underlying factors at work.

This'll be shorter than most blog posts I make, but it needs to be said (and I need to quit stressing about post length anyway). Realism in games actually creates fun, in a number of ways:
-It creates additional challenges. The pleasure we derive from overcoming challenges isn't just what makes a game fun; it's the core of what "fun" is.
-It provides depth. The moment-to-moment gameplay of first-person shooters like the Call of Duty series would be far less engaging if you didn't have to constantly factor in things like recoil or having to reload.
-It provides authenticity, helping the game's events seem more genuine. You sympathize more with your character's injuries if they actually have to go through the process of bandaging themselves up, rather than just instantly healing when they run over a medkit.

All of the above elements help the game; personal taste comes into play when you start considering how much challenge/depth/etc. is the right amount. And yes, obviously the same realistic gameplay element that improves one game's experience could detract from another game if you applied them there instead. That's not a question of taste; it's a matter of poor implementation on the part of the game designer.


Anonymous said...

I agree. Fun is not such a quantifiable experience in the first place and those who claim to have found its antithesis are falling into the trap of believing their subjective taste is objective truth.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes. This is so much what I've been telling people for a long time. Realism isn't dull and boring unless it's made to be. Realism doesn't mean you can't do awesome things or play intresting characters or have a deep, captivating campaign. In short, no matter what video games seem to want you to think, realism is not a colorless, washed out shade of gray.

Oh, and then there's the argument that goes about like this: "There's dragons and elves and magic, so trying to maintain any sort of realism is stupid and retarded."
This, of course, is an incredibly stupid argument that in no way separates external and internal reality from each other. Yes, fantasy can have all kinds of things that are not in any way realistic compared to the real world. But just because there's dragons shouldn't, in and of itself, mean that ordinary humans living alongside the dragons can, say, punch down walls without any problems.

Of course, it should be said that unrealism (that's not a word, I believe) can provide just as much entertainment, or none at all. Like you said, it all depends on the people playing and on how you do it.

vazor said...


Realism can hamper fun (by upping difficulty too much for a given player), but they are not mutually exclusive whatsoever.