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

2. Death

Games can't do death. Simple as that. Death is about as final as things get. There's no coming back. It's not a return journey. It's the end of the line. It's over. It's worm food. It's fish food. It's dog food. It's a box of musty clothes in a cardboard box outside the Salvation Army. It's kicking the bucket. It's floating face down and going belly up. It's a lonely dog staring at an empty chair. It's tears on a photo album. It's a laser-scorched Ewok on Endor. It's finito.

Above: Dead ewok 

But games do not respect the very specific laws of death. Games have conjured up their own approximation of life's last great adventure. Which is a good thing because, let's face it, a game in which the main character died and stayed dead would be a bit crap. Realistic. But crap.

Above: Well that was a complete waste of money


However, games are cunning and do a good job of tricking people into thinking that death actually means a damn. Take the end of Red Dead Redemption. John Marston dies. It's a big deal. But why is this death any different to the various incidental deaths of John Marston that players undoubtedly suffer while progressing through the game?

It's a bit silly when you think about it. It's like the game's saying "All those times Marston died and simply came back to life? Well, forget about all that because now we're really going to kill him for good because we need a dramatic ending." Understandable, but not realistic.

1. Getting around places

Human beings are a surprisingly adept bunch when it comes to getting around places. Even the rubbish human beings. When we really have to get somewhere, we just get there. It doesn’t matter if there’s a fence in the way, or a hole, or a pile of bricks, or a stinking stack of burning corpses. We just get there.

Above: "Ha ha!", thought Geoffrey McSupervillain. "My impenetrable fortress of doom is complete.  I have a small fence and everything"

We can climb over that fence, or kick it until it breaks. We can jump over that hole, or climb down into it and then climb back out the other side. Or we can use the planks from that broken fence to make an impromptu bridge if we’re really clever and wearing a nice clean suit we don’t want to get muddy. We can move those bricks and stack them somewhere sensible and unobstructive, or we can just scrabble over them like the monkey ancestors we come from. Never forget the old ways. And we can kick those corpses or poke them with a stick until they tumble down into a more convenient shape. In games though, we’re crap at all these things. Because games need us to be.

Above: You're not suggesting we go... beyond the bricks!? Why, nothing can survive out there!!!

Game levels, even open-world ones, can’t go on forever. Developers thus need to make artificial boundaries to stop us going too far and falling out of their game and into the inky outer blackness beyond, that that horribly creepy mirror bit in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. So they make us unable to surmount even the simplest of crappy obstacles, and so the kind of things we would have smashed through or climbed over with a hearty and derisory laugh when exploring cool places we weren’t supposed to go as kids become like an utterly impenetrable Fort Knox made of diamond and coated in adamantium and hidden in the middle of a big lava field full of vampire sharks. It’s necessary, yes. But it’s necessary and it’s rubbish. Because smashing up fences and kicking over corpses is ace.

May 16, 2011

Which real-life moustachioed man looks most like Mario?
We put Mario's hat on 20 famous hairy-faced men to find out 


Fantastic video game weapons vs their real-life equivalents
Just how likely is that Spartan Laser you've always wanted?


Videogames versus the real world
Proving how bizarre and wonderful our hobby can be


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.

Showing 1-20 of 45 comments

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