The Top 7... Things in games that will never be realistic

Look at games! The sky. The trees. The grass. The water. All of these things look real. And games will continue to get more real-looking as technology throws us ever closer to a promised land of perfect visual fidelity. Just this week, for example, Rockstar's LA Noire will introduce character faces so real - so mind-bendingly authentic - that they may cause some God-fearing types to be sick over themselves.

Above: One of these heads is from LA Noire. The other one is Jocelyn Wildenstein. There was a point to this, but we're not sure what it is now

This blistering hike to the peak of Mount Realism with our backpacks full of dreams and excitement and oatcakes doesn't simply end with things 'looking' real. Games have to 'feel' real. With real emotions and real experiences. We want the real deal and we want it in HD and we want to play it from the safety of the sofa.

But here's the actual reality. There are things in games that will never be realistic. Mostly because it would be stupid if they were. But that doesn't matter. What does matter is that these are The Top 7... things in games that will never be realistic.

7. Adequate training

How many times have you been playing a game and your character is given a complex weapon, computing device or piece of heavy machinery with barely a 'here's how you turn it on' before being sent on your merry way to defeat the baddies? Example: Yes, admittedly, you're a monkey Diddy Kong, but you look smart enough. You're wearing a baseball cap, which is always a sign of intelligence, so here, take this jet-pack. You'll figure it out in no time.

Above: If Diddy had received adequate training he would realise the potential fire risks associated with a jet-pack that is made from wood

This is not realistic. The amount of supervised tutorage and training needed to make a primate understand the principles and operational demands of jet-pack powered flight would be an extensive process. And that's not even taking into account all the mandatory health and safety training before a Diddy Kong would be allowed to come within a banana's length of any kind of propulsion device.

You might think this is silly. Monkeys? Jetpacks!? Absurd! But let's flip it over and look at it another way. Gordon Freeman is not a screeching, knuckle-scraping animal. He doesn't wear a baseball cap. He's a clever man of science. Yet he's given a crossbow and expected to be able to sniper-kill dudes shooting at him from windows at the far end of a street that's littered with highly explosive red barrels.

Above: At no point does this happen in Half-Life 2

Sure he's smart, but to be able to execute such lethal accuracy under the pressures of such dangerous conditions is something that takes months - years even - of training to achieve. Also, the fact he wears glasses gives us a clue that his eyes are a bit disabled. And how many snipers do you know with disabled eyes? Exactly.

6. Space

Ah, space. The mysterious, incandescent celestial realm in which all known reality hangs. A never-ending place of infinite possibilities, sensory wonders, and really cool explosive battles. That’s in games and films, anyway. Real space though, is just a bit inconvenient, and would be really bloody boring to deal with in a game.

Above: This...

Examples? There are many. First, and most obvious, is sound. In space there isn’t any, due to an inherent lack of atmosphere. So all of those epic space battles in every space-based game you’ve ever gleefully blasted your way through would take place in complete silence. Even the likes of Dead Space, which purport a more realistic version of exterior space combat, just quieten down and muffle things a bit. And the reasoning isn’t just to make things more exciting. It’s a basic game design thing too. Sound design and audio cues are more important than you might think in video game combat. If you can’t hear where that unseen star fighter or Necromorph is coming from, you can’t make a pre-emptive tactical response, and so for the game to be fair all your enemies would have to come at you in a straight line from directly in front of you. Which would be bloody dull.

Above: ...ultimately translates to this in reality

Other problems with video game space? Asteroid belts make one hell of an exciting clusterf*ck of hazards to navigate or eliminate (or be bloody irritated by their pole-axing of the game flow, in Dead Space’s case), but in reality they’re never anything like as dense as you’d think. They look impressive at a distance, but in the middle of one? Let’s just point out that the Cassini probe only saw one asteroid at a range of 1.6 million kilometres as it explored the belt in our solar system. Starfox, it was not. Similarly, with no force to hold something as small as gas particles together, all those cool multicoloured nebulae that ships hide in or fly through would be so low in density that you’d never even see them if you were that close.

And you can forget the visual splendour of explosions just as quickly as you forget the aural pleasure. With no air to transfer explosive energy – or to slow down its expansion -  you’d be looking at a very brief flash before everything spiralled off too fast for you to even register it. The cool, Top Gun-style dogfighting wouldn’t work either, as that stuff relies on air-based Earth physics.

Basically, real space = dull and annoying. So games will never follow suit. Because games need to be exciting and fun.


Top 7

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  • 435 - May 18, 2011 5:25 a.m.

    Bushido Blade for the PS1 did a pretty decent bit on realistic injury.
  • Yeager1122 - May 17, 2011 11:59 p.m.

    Hate invisible walls in games so annoying at least put a mountain there makes more sense i coulddnt go over that.
  • SuperStingray - May 17, 2011 10:48 p.m.

    Regarding space, look up Moonbase Alpha.
  • devendarling - May 17, 2011 9:16 p.m.

    Hmm, the guy on the top, next to Wildstein is John Noble, the guy who plays Walter on Fringe/Denethor in Lord of the Rings. Thought someone would appreciate some useless trivia.
  • humpiedumpie - May 17, 2011 8:10 p.m.

    This is why i love this site so much, amazing article!
  • EBAX1 - May 17, 2011 8:06 p.m.

    This isnt necessarily true, as in heavy rain you die without coming back, and in minecraft you can walk forever without hitting barriers
  • rxb - May 17, 2011 7:25 p.m.

    Good article guys, I guess thats why they are called games.
  • philipshaw - May 17, 2011 11:11 a.m.

    Great top 7 but I din't die once the whole of RDR so the death meant even more
  • insertdisk - May 17, 2011 8:40 a.m.

    Im so glad I didn't read the red-dead spoiler in the section about death... Seriously though nice article, although I can see no reason why getting around places can't be done realistically. It'd take some clever level design but could be done. I would have also put operating a vehicle in there. Why can everyone suddenly fly helicopters? And the enemy helicopters at that?
  • quincytheodore - May 17, 2011 7:09 a.m.

    Space. Remember what some random sergeant said in ME2, If you shoot some huge cannon, it will go all the way (Newton Law) and ruin someone's day someday somewhere. That's why we don't eyeball it. We don't shoot it from the hip.. We train adequately. Getting around places. The classic FF XIII. Dude : Oooh, nice futuristic world. I wanna go here. Dev: No, stick to the road. Dude: But why? You already made the.. Dev: No but! Just move forward!! Now!! Dude: I.. Dev: Do it! You can free roam after 40 hours. Or some steroid gorilla who can punch through boulder, but can't break flimsy door or jump fences, then have to find a measly key. Injuries. Try Kitana's X-Ray. Stab 2 fans/baldes on the back of a dude's head, pull them out and stuck them into his eye sockets, pull them out again. Not to mention Sindel's.. ohh, that's evil, boner killer. Death. Yeah, that'd suck. You can't revive on Diablo 2 on highest diff though, if I remember right. I like how some games just unsympathetically slap "Game Over / You Died" screen after the character got butchered, then make you sit through some boring loading screen. Too Human punishes you by giving the same long revive scene.
  • TradeMarkP - May 17, 2011 4:13 a.m.

    Really surprised boobs wasn't on the list, wait...what DO you know about the new Nintendo???? {plays X-Files theme}
  • faceofmonkey - May 17, 2011 3:19 a.m.

    I feel that minecraft does the whole "boundaries" thing pretty well. You can even knock down fences and build little bridges with the other land stuff.
  • SlickSubs - May 17, 2011 1:56 a.m.

    When discussing death, you have to remember Diablo II's hardcore mode. "Oh, what's that? You've played that character for 400 hours? That sucks, because that lag spike just erased him forever."
  • Robusken - May 17, 2011 1:29 a.m.

    Never really thought about that whole limitations thing honestly... Most games just clear cut pathways for everything, but yea, most ingame characters should have any problem breaking/getting over/destroying a wall that's in front of them.
  • Jamahl - May 17, 2011 1:28 a.m.

    Assassin's Creed uses "the guy whose memories you're experiencing never went there" in the animus, and in "real life" giant walls and locked doors to keep you in boundaries. So so far, AC's boundaries have been technically perfectly justified.
  • LitJackson - May 17, 2011 12:18 a.m.

    Wanna know whats really sad? i watched that whole sleep video. BLEW MY FUCKING MIND!
  • Yaro - May 16, 2011 11:05 p.m.

    The cynicism of this article is punching me in the face and I love it! Enjoyed this very much thank you gentlemen.
  • R_U_Guys_From_British - May 16, 2011 11:01 p.m.

    Great article, just a small observation. Some entries aren't numbered.
  • gilgamesh310 - May 16, 2011 9:40 p.m.

    What they said about Gordon Freeman was a bit stupid. Even if he has weak eyes, the fact that he wears his glasses when shooting would mean that he's able to see perfectly when doing so. An expert sniper in Enemy at the Gates wore glasses. Also who's to say he's not a good nut. Just because he's a scientist doesn't mean he's never fired a gun. He could have fired plenty in his free time.
  • Fedexcommando - May 16, 2011 9:39 p.m.

    Noob Saibot's X-ray is the funniest shit I have ever seen.