Battlefield 1 became one of the most popular video game betas ever when it was released a few weeks ago. I was never hugely into the series itself, and it also doesn’t help that EA and DICE, two developers that are treated as the video game industry versions of Tweedledee and Tweedledum, have been behind the latest few installments. For the most part is was received well, but there were some cripes about the game’s “realistic” factor, as it was seen as somewhat historically inaccurate for a game that takes place in World War 1. I’m not terribly knowledgeable on that sort of topic, but some were a bit shocked at the sight of so many handheld machine guns available to the player.
But this article is not about addressing whether or not Battlefield 1 is true to its setting, but it’s more so about bringing up one particular question: why do games get criticized for not being realistic?
For one, video games can most certainly benefit from taking a more realistic route, as this gives the player a better sense of comfort and familiarity. Imagine any military based first person shooter, and in it, you take aim at an enemy for a head shot. In that next moment, he drops dead. This is the sort of scenario where gamers can get that sense of, “Wow! This is just like in real life!” Chances are that anyone playing these types of games will most likely never have the chance of firing a gun at any terrorists threatening their country. And an important part of video games is giving the player the ability to immerse themselves in fantastical and wondrous worlds that they could never hope to achieve in reality. It’s what makes games so appealing, as they let us perform and accomplish things we could never hope to.
But on the other side of the spectrum, a game that takes the more realistic approach to games ends up risking one huge factor: fun.
I’m not saying that realistic games can’t be enjoyable, because they most certainly can be. But games going more so for realism limit more as to what the player is able to do, and it also takes away that fantasy value most of us adore. Video games give us the ability to place ourselves in situations and be something we couldn’t possibly hope to imagine or accomplish, and that is a huge part of their appeal. Escaping to a whole new universe where it’s possible to leap 50 feet in the air and soar through the sky or shoot lightning out of your fingertips is part of the charm in most video games.
One title that made me think of all this was Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, which is a game that’s still relatively new. On the surface, the game seems relatively grounded, with characters that have realistic goals and personalities, none of the environments are too alien-like, and our main character isn’t exactly a super human. But how much of a different game would Uncharted 4 be if Nathan Drake wasn’t able to swing around effortlessly anywhere he wants via grappling hook? Or shrug of a couple of pistol shots to the abdomen? Or even narrowly escape exploding structures without anything but a few scratches on the head?
Video games, at their core, are about pure enjoyment and entertainment, and that’s the most important factor at the end of the day. Whether the game is realistic or not should never determine how great it is, but a game “not being realistic enough” should never be seen as a negative when there are thousands of different positives that can make a game shine. Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil may be very far from being realistic, but they have qualities that make them good in their own way. No fan of these particular games is talking about how they aren’t realistic enough, because there’s so many other additions that are far more important.
As someone who reviews games often as a side hobby, I always keep an open mind about what can make a video game good or bad. Being realistic or off the walls crazy are just preferences, and much like every hobby, everyone has ones that differ. And any game, whether historically accurate, inaccurate, or just insane, can hold a special place in anyone’s heart.