The trend in gaming as of late has been a push towards “reality”. Games like COD, Battlefield, and SOCOM all boast military advisors on staff, with a focus on making the game experience as “realistic” as possible.
The obsession with reality doesn’t end there, and its relation to a game’s overall fun factor, got me thinking — just how real do we want things, and at what point does reality cause a game to no longer be fun?
I must admit, I’m one of the people that really enjoyed playing the franchise mode of Madden and dynasty mode NCAA Football on the PS2 and Xbox. I really got into the scouting, drafting, and player progression aspects of the games.
Therefore, I should have been the perfect target audience for their NFL Head Coach game, right? Well, I bit and bought it for my PC, but after about an hour or so of spinning around in my virtual office chair, attending virtual staff meetings, and discussing the fate of virtual players, I decided that I wanted to be paid real money before giving the game anymore of my time.
The realization that I came to was that, I really just wanted to build powerhouses, rack up a billion trophies, dominate anything that gets in my way, and call it a career. I was willing to do this via some basic number crunching and mindless virtual drafts. I was even willing to run a few drills to improve the stats of my key players, but the other stuff, which I originally thought might be fun, was the furthest thing from it.
What about MMO’s? How long are people willing to endure the daily grind before they scream uncle? Never playing one before, I decided to give World of Warcraft a shot. I spent a few months playing the game as a manly man Warrior who put food on his table by mining ore and blacksmithing.
It was fun at first, because my rudimentary goal was to hit the highest level possible, be the greatest warrior in the game, and have all the best stuff, but as I learned more about how things worked, I realized what it would take, and it began to lose its appeal.
Running around as a solo madman trying to break through the barriers of WoW middle class had just about taken its toll on me. Right as I was about to quit the game for good, I got invited into a mature raiding guild full of really nice people.
The social aspect of the game that I discovered, as a part of a well run guild, made the quest to attain the “best stuff” bearable, because it served as a distraction from the fact that I was slaying the same creature five million times to complete a given quest. Upon hitting level 70 though, I quickly found that I was willing to settle for having stuff that was close to the best without actually being the best.
No longer armed with the goal of having the best stuff, I began to lose interest in logging in on a daily basis to perform tasks like farming materials and running daily quests to earn gold. Unfortunately, raiding (an aspect which I did enjoy) is very expensive, and requires lots of grinding to support.
In the end, I came to the conclusion that World of Warcraft had become more of a job, and less of a fun experience. The daily grind required to support the things I did like in the game became too time consuming and felt too much like work. The people I was exposed to were nice, and I will stay in touch with them via the interwebs, but having a second job that doesn’t pay just wasn’t something I could afford to do.
Reality in games, is not limited to simulated worlds or experiences that occupy large quantities of our time. It can also be used as a measuring stick to make less committal games, such as First Person Shooters, seem more like the real thing.
The other day, Dan stumbled on a YouTube video that showed a .50 caliber bullet ricocheting back towards the head of the person who fired it. He shared it with me and it lead to a discussion regarding the concussive force of a fired .50 caliber round. Dan had spent four years in the military prior to joining our amazing site, and it was his understanding based on a conversation with a .50 cal gunner, that a .50 cal bullet could in fact do fatal damage to its target without ever hitting it.
I found this information interesting and decided to shoot an email over to one of the producers at Infinity Ward. What I wanted to know was two fold. First, had they ever heard of such a thing via one of their advisors, and secondly, would they consider implementing such a thing in one of their games if possible.
I was informed that Infinity Ward spent a great deal of time with the Marines and that they shot everything in “real steel”. In addition, he stated that the aforementioned characteristic of a .50 cal round “wouldn’t translate well into gameplay” and would be “hard to convey”. I described a weapon capable of missing its target completely and still killing it as “cheesy”, and he agreed.
This video below shows the power of a .50 cal sniper rifle (sort of).
This is not to say that Infinity Ward does not implement aspects of reality into their game. Firing the M203 grenade launcher in Call of Duty 4 less than the required distance it must travel before detonating (15 to 30 yards) will cause it to not explode on impact.
However, one aspect of its COD4 implementation that’s not rooted in reality, is that you can still kill someone with it if you hit them pretty much anywhere without it actually exploding. This was likely done in an effort to not frustrate gamers who hit their target.
This video below shows the force at which the M203 is actually fired.
How fun would it be if you killed one cop in GTA4 and they relentlessly hunted you down from that point forward in the game? What if by alerting one guard in MGS4 they never resumed their normal unassuming rounds?
World of Warcraft eventually realized that the grind associated with their game was too much and made it easier for people to level. They’re taking it a step further with their latest expansion by allowing smaller groups to access end game content, and as you read above, even Infinity Ward, who strives for realism understands the value of balance.
We are all guilty, at one point or another, of demanding a more realistic gaming experience, but in the end, it seems that less realism equals more fun, and isn’t that what we really want?