Sometimes we complain when games go too far down the rabbit hole of artistic license. Hell, I wrote an article about it two years ago, lampooning games for subscribing to the same handful of tired, unrealistic mechanics. Why can your character carry ten tons worth of weapons? Why is double jumping a thing? Usually, it's because developers think that gamers suspension of disbelief allows it, so there's no reason to pull in the reins in favor of realism.
That said, not every concession is a poor one. There are plenty of other times when mainstream gaming adheres to a set of (seemingly pre-determined) rules that fly in the face of reality. Sometimes they make for cleaner, more enjoyable gameplay. Other times, realism is pushed aside because it's too boring. Either way, I'm happy that game developers agreed to let these things slide.
7. Guns never need cleaning
Guns are extremely complicated machines. There are a bunch of moving parts that need constant attention and cleaning to prevent them from clogging up and potentially breaking in your hand. And yet, in video games, you can do whatever the hell you want with a gun without worrying about it jamming. Go ahead, swim in that river of blood. Who cares? Your gun still fires like it's brand new.
But here's the thing: cleaning a gun? Time consuming. According to my research (literally Googling "how long does it take to clean a gun" and clicking the first link), you're looking at a minimum of 20 minutes to tear down a gun and clean it. That's not fun. It's not compelling. It's not immersive. It's just boring work that you'd rather not do--so I'll just pretend that weapons aren't totally worthless after being submerged, since the alternative is a half-hour mini-game where I need to use Hoppe's Universal Gun Cleaning Accessory Kit (currently $22.67 on Amazon, with free shipping for Prime members) to scrub out the barrel of my pistol.
6. Swords never need sharpening
Swords, when compared to guns, are about as basic as you can get--they're sharp sticks made of metal. Done. Sword. In video games, we skip that step and go right to the part where you're pulling that sharpened steel through the flesh of an enemy before moving on to do it to the next guy. And the next guy. But if swords in games acted like actual swords, they'd be worthless in a matter of minutes.
Each time two swords smack together they're going to leave a deep gouge that ruins the integrity of the blade. And the more a sword cuts the duller it becomes, making it--you guessed it--a worse sword. But, honestly, who wants to spend time sharpening or fixing a blade? Each time a sword is repaired you're making it a little worse, too; think of it like sharpening a pencil. So you'd need to take breaks between levels to improve the weapon, and you'd be handed a worse one. Cloud's sword would be leaving papercuts by the end of the first disk.
5. Pretty much everyone understands every language
On Earth, today, there are over 6,000 spoken languages by humans. That's a lot of people unable to understand a lot of other people. Now pretend that, instead of all of the people being humans, they're a mix of elves, and dwarves, and floating jellyfish. It's safe to say that each of those races could potentially have 6,000+ languages of their own, right? Now why can your character in [insert fantasy or sci-fi game here] speak and understand the language? Why can they understand yours? Magic? Science? Laziness?
Another question: do you care? Because I don't. Sure, it's unrealistic, but not being able to understand someone is frustrating as hell. Talking to the King of Goblins would require you to communicate through charades or via a translator, neither of which are any fun. I mean it might be cool for a second, but as soon as I need to repeat a level because my in-game translator mixed up the words for "spend the night" with "sleep with your daughter" I'm done with gaming. I'll just move on to, like, knitting or something.
4. Friendly fire is barely ever on
I found a pair of pants in Diablo 3 that blasts out a cloud of gas whenever I'm surrounded by enemies. It's basically a fart, and it does a ton of damage, but for some reason my teammates are unaffected. Maybe they've grown to accept the nervous toots I let out when I get scared? Maybe my character warns them before I let one rip? Then again, none of my allies seem to mind when I throw a grenade at them in Titanfall, and my World of Warcraft guildies haven't ever been affected by my Paladin casts Consecration.
It doesn't really make sense. If my Wizard's Firewall is powerful enough to scorch any enemy within two meters, it's surely strong enough to burn the flesh off my friend's faces. But it doesn't, and that's totally fine, because any time a game actually does have friendly fire, I'm going to piss off a lot of people. I don't want to brag, but if they gave out Grammy Awards for mistakenly shooting your friends in the face I'm pretty sure I'd be the Quincy Jones of friendly fire. Just sayin'.
3. Everyone has a short memory
One time in Grand Theft Auto 5 I beat up a cop with a baseball bat in front of a bunch of other cops. I don't remember why I did it, but I did, and then I ran away. The cops chased me--likely confused and furious over the brutal, cold-blooded murder of their friend--but they eventually stopped their pursuit. A few minutes later I returned to the scene of the crime (a rookie criminal move, I know), but no one remembered me, because video game characters don't remember anything. Cops in GTA, guards in stealth games; they all seem to forget a threat the second it's gone.
Which, honestly, is the only way it could possibly work in games. How horrible would it be if every person in every game remembered everything you did? Your Grand Theft Auto character wouldn't be able to step outside without a swarm of cops assaulting him, and you'd never be able to hide in a vent in Batman without enemies stalking the exit. It'd mean that a single slip-up would be game over--and you'd never be able to recover. It's silly, but it's the only way.
2. Healing is remarkably simple
You're poisoned! Shit. Shit. Ok, first, what bit you? A purple ghost? A giant snake god? You need to go to the hospital, and--wait, I forgot--it's a video game, and that means that there's only one kind of poison, and only one kind of antidote. Sure, in the real-world there are thousands of unique, deadly types of poisons, but that's not something you need to worry about in a game. And, honestly, no matter what ails you, there's a good chance you can sleep it off. Find an inn and take a nap.
And while that's easy and lazy, it's better than the alternative: nearly every injury causing permanent damage that takes weeks or months to heal. We ran an article about this very thing last year, but the tl;dr version is that if you're badly wounded, you'll never get completely better. Which, obviously, isn't very fun. Imagine how boring Uncharted would be if every tumble off a cliff left old N. Drake in traction for six months. Bo-ring.
1. Bodily functions don't exist
Humans exist to munch on stuff and poop it out. When it comes down to it, that's basically all we do. Oh, we also get thirsty and tired. So those four things--eating, drinking, sleeping, and pooping--are four of the most important things that humans do. Coincidentally, they're also four things that barely any video game character has ever had to do. Samus has never pooped in her entire life, and Altair never drank a cold glass of water. Not even once.
The most notable exception? The Sims, a game that attempts to replicate life by forcing you to do stuff like eat and sleep. And while The Sims is great, I don't think I want any other games trying to add in these mechanics, even if it is unrealistic that Sonic hasn't felt the need to take a break from all that exhausting running to nibble on whatever it is that hedgehogs eat. I'd assume insects, but I don't want to--actually, let me Google it. It's insects. Nailed it.
The best thing about gaming? For each thing on this list, there are a handful of games that actually take advantage of the trope to make for stronger gameplay. The Sims has you pooping and eating all over the place, games like Dragon Age and Battlefield offer Friendly Fire modes for enhanced realism, and there are even games where your weapons break and dull. Have any favorites? Let us know in the comments, below!