Connect with us
Advertisement

Features

Why are you addicted to video games that remind you of real life?

I think we enjoy playing certain videogames, and even become addicted to them, because they’re real and fake at the same time.

Published

on

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3

I’ve just read a very articulate article on Thumbsticks about the obsession with “realistic” graphics in certain gaming circles – mostly FPS and male-dominated genres. There’s a link to that article at the bottom of this page.

I’m putting the word “realistic” in inverted commas because the whole point of that article is that no games can, in the realest sense, be realistic. They’re simply pixels playing tricks on our minds. More importantly, it asks, “Why do we strive to make games realistic when we play games to escape reality?” This question is more pertinent when the reality you’re being reminded of is one of war, suffering and death. Would it not be better to spend some quality time with Banjo Kazooie and the world famous plumbers, Super Mario Bros?

It’s this second issue that has piqued my interest.

Advertisement

Let’s get semantical – “life-like” rather than “realistic”

Notice that I’ve made up a hyphenated version of “lifelike” – which is a synonym for “realistic” – instead of using the word itself. By “life-like”, I mean something with the affectations or artificial qualities of real life (rather than something that tries to genuinely resemble or match real life).

In my mind, this distinction between convincing artificiality and flawed authenticity, explains why we play and enjoy games that remind us of the gruesomeness of the real world.

Real enough to be believable – phony enough to be meaningless

For many gamers, I think being emotionally invested in a game is necessary for enjoyment. The emotions may vary – nostalgia, rage, romance, frustration, happiness and so on – but at least one must be present, to a high degree, for you to remain engaged.

And I think that’s why we like realistic games – they tap into emotions we have in real life.

We hate war and terrorism, so we get amped when gunning down insurgents on Call of Duty. I love the rivalry in football, so when it’s my Arsenal against an opponent’s Spurs team on Fifa, things will probably get emotional. The game isn’t real but the emotions are – and the game creators want them to be. They want you hooked, so they create an environment that draws from the vast reservoirs of emotion you already possess.

Advertisement

This is also why realistic graphics tend to matter more in games like Call of Duty and others based on real life – we have a frame of reference. As a result, we’re always more likely to compare. When barrel-riding donkeys that have a habit of hoarding bananas start roaming the streets of London, I’ll bet you Donkey Kong will become a lot more life-like.

This distinction between “realistic” and “life-like” also explains why we enjoy playing these games.

Because of the inherent artificiality of games, we know they’re not real. Sure, I just launched a drone strike on a village of pixel people but I know (or would like to think) that I wouldn’t actually do it in real life. It’s only a game, right?

So, we’re sufficiently emotionally attached to enjoy playing the game but detached from reality enough not to care about events in it.

It’s the perfect recipe for satisfying a very unrealistic and narcissistic human desire – eating your cake and having it.

Link: This is not a pipe / Realism is not real

We have a favour to ask

Thumbsticks has a couple of main aims. We want to write interesting articles and cover games that most outlets won't, and we want to give opportunities to new writers and new voices. And right now, with the current state of online publishing? It's tough! We hate to ask, but if you want us to continue writing what others won't, or to keep covering weird indie games, or to be able to give opportunities to new writers – and only if you can afford it – then please consider supporting us on Patreon.

Recommended for you

Timi has cultivated a healthy hatred for mankind from playing too many games, reading too much existential philosophy and listening to Radiohead for marathon stretches of time.

Advertisement

Latest from Thumbsticks

Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Isabelle Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Isabelle
News8 hours ago

Nintendo’s Doug Bowser clarifies the future of Animal Crossing after E3 absence

Fans hoping for an update on Animal Crossing: New Horizons at E3 came away disappointed. Worry not, says Doug Bowser.

Bethesda Starfield Bethesda Starfield
News15 hours ago

Bethesda’s Pete Hines ‘sorry’ for frustration that Starfield won’t come to PlayStation 5

In an interview, Bethesda's senior vice president of marketing, Pete Hines, spoke to PlayStation fans, apologising for the frustration that...

Metro Exodus Metro Exodus
News22 hours ago

Metro Exodus Xbox Series X|S and PS5 upgrade detailed

With Metro Exodus about to launch on Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5, developer 4A Games has outlined some of...

Coming exclusively to Xbox E3 2021 Coming exclusively to Xbox E3 2021
Features1 day ago

Something was conspicuously absent from the Xbox E3 2021 conference

Master Chief? Present. Forza? Here. Sea of Thieves? Yarr! Bethesda exclusives? You bet. So why did it feel like something...

Control - Xbox Control - Xbox
News1 day ago

Time is running out to get Control for free on PC

Control, Remedy’s dark, strange third-person shooter, is free on the Epic Games Store.

The Medium - Xbox Series X / PlayStation 5 The Medium - Xbox Series X / PlayStation 5
News1 day ago

Xbox Series X exclusive confirmed for PS5 release

The Xbox Series X|S is losing a high-profile exclusive to Sony’s PlayStation 5 console this September.

Rockstar shuttering GTA Online servers Rockstar shuttering GTA Online servers
News2 days ago

Rockstar shuttering legacy online servers for GTA Online, other titles

Rockstar is bringing an end to online services for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of GTA V, Max...

breath of the wild 2 zelda big hole breath of the wild 2 zelda big hole
Features2 days ago

Did Nintendo really just bench Zelda, again, for Breath of the Wild 2?

Is it still technically fridging if the hero's princess falls down a really big hole? Asking for a friend.

Advertisement