In this thread I want to discuss two slightly related topics about games.
Realism in Games
Maybe it's just me, but I thought that the reason to play a game was to escape from reality and experience a more enjoyable reality. Yet, I'm also part of the crowd that has a natural tendency to want aspects of realism in games - though I am trying to smother that urge because I find I really don't enjoy realism in games.
Why do we naturally want realism in games if we don't enjoy the realism? Why do some people actually enjoy realism in games despite the fact that they're trying to escape it?
For the record, I cannot think of any realistic game that I have enjoyed. The games I enjoy the most are the ones which are the most disconnected from reality, the ones that follow their own set of rules disparate from those that govern real life. (I don't, however, enjoy games where the rules don't make sense or are not consistent). Yet, I see people enjoy hyper-realistic games just fine.
Blood & Gore in Games
This is something else I don't understand. My best guess is that it is a cultural thing, which explains why many people are fine with it, but it does not explain why some people are obsessed with it to the point of extreme detail or absurd qualities. Having limbs fall off and blood spurt out just seems an unnecessary, if not gross detail. Instinctively, the last thing I want to happen is for me or someone else to start bleeding - as humans we are programmed to avoid and be afraid of injury. So why do people obsess with it and almost enjoy it in games?
Unfortunately my distaste for blood and gore overrule the other things I like about games and thus I can't enjoy many otherwise good games because of it. This is most definitely just part of my culture and if I were able to ignore the blood and gore I would enjoy the games. The confusion comes when I try to understand why the games have blood and gore in the first place - I don't understand what positive qualities are added to the game with blood and gore.
Even movies, which we want to be realistic and to relate to our life instead of taking us away from our life, tend to avoid blood and gore to some extent. At least, many movies try to show it directly or even at all. When they do, it generally tends to induce nervous laughter or just a general uncomfortable feeling for most viewers, as is the intent when deliberately showing it. So why is it not the same for games?
Some people do play games to escape to a more enjoyable reality. Others want to thrust themselves into situations they know will be uncomfortable for them to gain a sort of cathartic release from them, without the risk of danger in this world. See horror games.
Consequently, the fact that a game has strong ties to reality may not necessarily be a bad thing for an enjoyment of the game. Those people don't necessarily want to escape reality as a whole, they merely want to explore a different facet of it. Even the grittier portions. Especially the grittier portions. Those are exciting from a third-person perspective, and day to day life can be terribly dull.
As for blood and gore in games, it really depends on the game and how it's used. In a GOOD horror game, it's often intended to invoke the exact reaction that you have toward it (see Outlast). In most violent games, I suspect that blood and gore use is a product of one of two things. The first possibility is a result of a desire for realism (see Call of Duty 4). The second possibility is to emphasize that violent acts are being committed (see Miami Hotline).
Neither is inherently bad, but the issue is that violent games I find are often overdone, and the stream of violence that they involve is incessant, with all the encounters blending into each other and feeling similar without providing major challenges with high costs of loss, ultimately providing little more than a gentle flow of cheap adrenaline. Why is combat such a frequent mechanic in games nowadays anyway? Because people enjoy it. Why do they enjoy combat in games? Partially because of the glorification that American culture affords violence. The US was founded on the massacre of native tribes and the repulsion of one of the greatest Empires in the history of the world. Perhaps it's not entirely surprising.
This is leads us neatly to the genre of realistic shooters, which practically require blood and gore, as a lack of either will either require the removal of death, or sacrifice the "realistic" portion. The genre is perhaps embarrassingly popular, with most games being a offering nothing new to the table relative to any other realistic shooter (inb4 Battlefield 4 destruction physics, also see Spec Ops: The Line for a realistic shooter that actually handles things a bit better). American culture has a fetish for violence, and how much more violent can you get than as a member of the army engaging in combat on the front lines? These I would call the primary offenders in the "overuse misuse of blood and violence" category of games, and their success is part of the reason it's as prevalent as it is now.
Of course, to address the elephant in the room, realistic shooters are far from realistic. "Dum de dum, running around in the open with an assault rifle because it's not like I have any fear of death. Whoops, I just took a series of bullets to the chest, rupturing my lungs. Eh, it's no big deal. Lungs grow back, and I don't strictly speaking need them to breathe, right? Whoops, just got my brains painted across a nearby wall by a sniper. Eh, it's alright, I'll just magically revive somewhere else in the world in perfect health because the Americans have apparently hired Ulysses as the army medic!"
Movies generally seem to have a greater respect for the viewer's mental capacity. There aren't many films that are nonstop violence, and those that are generally wind up with mixed reception at best, driving people away from them. This makes blood in films have more of an impact when it does appear, because it's not everpresent like many realistic violent games call for it to be, and consequently it's harder to get desensitized to it. Why don't games take the same approach? Out of fear that the players with a shorter attention span will get bored.
There will, of course, be games that use blood in subtle ways that continue to be unsettling (see Amnesia: The Dark Descent). There will also be games that go so ridiculously overboard with the amount of blood and gore that we're affected by it despite our desensitization (see the Mortal Kombat franchise).
Realism in a game doesn't hamper escapism, it enhances it through immersion.
Whenever I thought I was starting to lose myself in the experience, some NPC would get stuck on a paving stone or force me to feed them that stupid conversation pie, and I'd come crashing back to reality, where I am nothing more than an Anglo-Australian tit trying to outsmart a cloud of ones and zeros.
[Realistic shooters] I would call the primary offenders in the "overuse of blood and violence" category of games, and their success is part of the reason it's as prevalent as it is now.
You watch ZP? Awesome. That was actually a good quote.
Okay, I should have elaborated on that.
Yes, the actual blood and gore in realistic shooters looks like a blushing virgin in comparison to the gibs and pre-animated body dissections of Quake-style shooters and fighting games respectively.
I don't so much have an issue with blood and gore being highly graphic (as long as it's within reason, and I do think that Mortal Kombat pushes it a bit too far EDIT2: as did Outlast at times) so much as I do with blood and gore being present almost all the time in a game, even if it's not highly gory. The repetition is what desensitizes people, and the desensitization is what I mainly consider an issue.
I retract the "violence" part of the "blood and violence" bit. :D
EDIT3: Actually, all things considered, Mortal Kombat and possibly MadWorld do fall into the list of "misuse of blood" offenders. They just so far don't seem to be as having as strongly a negative impact on game desing as the realistic shooters do. I suppose I'm just prejudiced against realistic shooters.
Realism does have a lot to do with immersion, and any great game should try to immerse the player in the world because that is where the most memorable enjoyment lies. Saying that I do not believe that realism needs to be based on real life, instead I believe It has more to do with what the player can believe to be true in the current setting or environment.
As for the gore in certain title is needed to either set the mood. Or possibly to emphasize the brutal truth of the type of world being conveyed. Take Chivalry Medieval Warfare for example, when you swing a giant blade at your enemy you expect some type of dismemberment or frankly it would totally be like "yeahh his head didn't come off are you serious" its not so much that people like brutality but more the fact that if it wasn't there it just may break the title.
Saying that I do not believe that realism needs to be based on real life, instead I believe It has more to do with what the player can believe to be true in the current setting or environment.
It doesn't need to be, but most of the things depicted in a game are things that aren't physically impossible in real life, so even if they don't actually exist, their believable behavior will end up being the "realistic" one anyway.
Dragons flying backwards in Skyrim isn't unbelievable because that's not something TES dragons do, but because that's not what hypothetical real dragons would do. They could retcon that TES dragons do fly backwards and it would be equally ludicrous.
I've never played a realistic video game in my life, so I don't know what you're talking about with that. In fact.... I've never even seen one. Video games in general are pretty much unrealistic by their very nature.
LB: Time aside... most if not all video game protagonists have superhuman abilities, whether it being able to get shot multiple times without getting slowed down... or being able to haul dozens/hundreds of items around... or whatever other crazy stuff goes on in video games.
Seriously.. name me one video game that is realistic. AFAIK, there aren't any.
It's like trying to name a realistic action movie.
realistic graphics does not a realistic game make.
My thoughts exactly (I skimmed through the above blog posts)
Would you prefer to play the "boring" characters?
I swear I remember a blog post by Sean Howard like that, you play a more or less regular Joe in an underwater city where the there's a big conflict going between a hero and super-vilains on but you just worried about getting the air-conditioning fixed.
whether it being able to get shot multiple times without getting slowed down... or being able to haul dozens/hundreds of items around... or whatever other crazy stuff goes on in video games.
All you seem to be describing is a certain genre of game. If you that's the kind of shit you want to play, there's Dayz. Gameplay over anything else, as always. Games don't have to look realistic to have a good art style. Super Mario wouldn't be as fun if it was "realistic". Any number of games that aren't (your definition of) "realistic" (games) would be utter crap.