The Gauntlet Realism in games: hype or awesome? Spyke and Lee’Mon fight it out in this week’s Gauntlet.

The Gauntlet:
Realism in games: hype or awesome? Spyke and Lee’Mon fight it out in this week’s Gauntlet.
— by Lee’Mon and Spyke

Welcome to the “The Gauntlet”! They say that there are two sides to every argument, and the debates within the Quake community are no exception. That’s why we created “The Gauntlet”.

Our top two PlanetQuake staff writers, Spyke and Lee’Mon, often find themselves on opposite sides of an argument. We could have them each post their own editorial, but PQ readers have let us know what they really want: bloody combat!

So, we squared the two off in a custom arena, and let them use whatever facts, opinions, arguments, and insults necessary to make their point. Then we let you, the readers, decide the outcome! So watch and read as these two enter the battle royal, and vote on which side you agree with!

This week’s topic: Spyke is once again on the warpath. Mr. “I Frag Alone” is worked up about the number of “realism” mods and games that are coming out. Lee’Mon, on the other hand, has nothing against the growing trend towards realism, and sees it as a positive move for both mods and games. So, the question is Realism In Games: Overhyped Fad, or Inevitable Future? Spyke swears that realism is nothing but hype, while Lee’Mon defends realism’s viability.

Lee’Mon: Tell you what. Since I’ve won every Gauntlet so far, I’ll let YOU start this one. The chat window is yours, O evil one…

Spyke: Excellent. If you’re allergic to caffiene-fueled ranting, it’s best to skip ahead to Lee’Mon’s rebuttals, as they’re for the namby-pamby wussy little fruitbats. Anyways…

What the hell is with realism in games? I play a game every day that’s as real as it can get; it’s called “life”. No, not that silly little board game with the cars and little blue and pink pegs that get lost all the time, real life. It’s as real as it gets; when I jump from more than 10 feet, I get hurt. When someone hits me with an axe, I bleed all over the place and have to spend a couple days in the hospital, at the very least. That’s reality.

Realism in games makes no sense to me. Games are an escape from reality. They’re a chance to become an alternate character and do things you would never be able to do in real life; if you did, you’d die or possibly get arrested. I can see realism in sports games, racing games, and such; those are simulations of real life activities that people engage in on a regular basis. But realism in first-person shooters? Such a concept suggests to me that people should be headed for the loony bin. “Realism”, according to, is “the representation in art or literature of objects, actions, or social conditions as they actually are, without idealization or presentation in abstract form.”

I’m sorry, but I’ve never seen anyone jump from high buildings carrying around 10 big-ass guns fighting aliens.

Lee’Mon: Which may be exactly my side’s point. Some people don’t think your character should be able to carry ten weapons and full ammo, or tote a six-foot-long chaingun with no apparent weight distribution difficulties. They feel you should take damage from a major fall. Some feel you should bleed, others feel you should limp, and many believe that a solid shot to the head should mean Game Over.

The fantasy element has been worked over for too many years now. Many players have had their fill of being military superheroes saving the universe from aliens. They’re tired of the rocket launcher being the dominant weapon in the action gaming universe. Sure, everyone plays games to escape reality, but just because you’re discarding your deskworker job or POS car doesn’t mean you have to abandon the laws of physics, as well. I can escape reality perfectly well by becoming a counterterrorist (or a terrorist, despite what any FBI agents might tell you.)

Unless you live in the “bad” part of town, a world filled with armed people shooting at one another is far enough removed from reality. But rocket jumps are impossible without a good acid trip. There’s just a growing breed of gamers that want more realism in their fantasy gaming.

Spyke: See, myself, I always thought that strategy-based, more “realistic” games blew; but that’s just me. I also believe that with more realism in games such as first-person shooters, things become distorted. Let me give you an extreme example.

This probably isn’t a good time to bring this up, given the day this will be published. A while ago, my friend found this map for Action Quake 2. It was, supposedly, a fairly close replica of Columbine High School. I thought, “Oh, sure, BS”. Then we played it. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in my life, and not in a good way. Some sick f*ck took it upon himself to construct this map, complete with broken school furniture and disturbing messages scrawled in blood on the walls. We ran through the map for about 5 minutes and decided it would be impossible to play in, as well as just plain wrong. This is where realism completely crosses the line. Introducing realistic situations into games that are clearly non-realistic will only lead to trouble.

Lee’Mon: [sigh] … I wondered if you’d attempt to pull that card. First off, it’s a widely held belief in the game industry and community that gaming youth don’t become psychos; psycho youth just tend to play games as much as any other kids. And no offense, but have you ever been to Columbine? Did some sick evil faque actually recreate the building (which would tax the hell out of the best system, even at Q2 levels of detail), or did they just construct a school that looked like it? Also, there’s plenty of assholes out there that could easily have built it as a sick joke. Either way, never judge the rights of a large group of people based on the actions of a few… at least until you can explain the phallic skin for Orbb I saw a few days ago.

Besides, the games aren’t actually anywhere near ultra-realistic. Two out of your five senses–sight and sound–are in play, and both are working in two dimensions. When you shoot people, red pixels fly out (even in Q3A), and half the time, the bodies disappear. Your opponents run, shoot, and die, with no emotion other than the console chatter. Until enemies scream in pain, blood sprays everywhere, dripping and glistening off the walls, and I have to deal with the stench of rotting corpses, I won’t consider games to be truly realistic. I’m just asking that these fantasy rockets and grenades be given a rest.

Spyke: Yeah, I know what you mean, regarding psychos and all that. But it still gives the industry a bad name.

But getting back on track, realism in games is taxing on a few fronts. To have a completely realistic game will never happen; until then, people will pick apart things that are supposed to be realistic. Current technology can’t make anything “realistic”; the entire world isn’t made up of polygons. Realism doesn’t work. Anything other than real life is a poor substitute. And don’t get me started on the motion sickness factor.

Lee’Mon: Again, you’re nearly proving my point. “Realism” fans aren’t looking for a Matrix-style simulation (minus Keanu and the gang) that perfectly imitates the physics and behavior of real life. However, they are looking to challenge the fantasy worlds that have existed since the action genre existed.

Action games will always be fantasy; there’s no denying that. But it is so bad to place them in real-world settings, and try to follow a reality’s rules better than “grenades explode upon touching an enemy”? It’s clearly working; Rainbow Six was successful enough to spawn off a sequel (and a sequel to that); Counter-Strike still has over three-fourths of all Half-Life servers. And check out this link; it’s a next gen, real-world-based tactical shooter from Saffire and Red Storm. If you have the time and bandwidth, check out one of the movies, particularly the high-quality 60MB one. The action has gotten more than a fair share of gamers interested, including myself. Now, if you put that video clip beside, say, a demo of a fast-paced Quake III Arena deathmatch, I guarantee a parent would be more upset with the latter. Realism is relative.

Spyke: I’d like to take that statement, “realism is relative”, and run with it, if I may.

(Runs off with statement)

True, it’s relative. Compared to a fast-paced cartoonish game like Q3A, Counterstrike seems very much real. But compare the situations faced in Counterstrike to the same situations in real life. They’re still very different. Counterstrike and games like it, most notably Soldier of Fortune, boast realism, but in fact, still aren’t very realistic. Games would be no fun with realism. Hey, look! You’ve been shot once! You’re dead, or you have to lie on the ground until someone comes back for you, to rescue you or to seal your fate! You’re carrying 5 guns, but can only move at a walking pace!

Sure doesn’t seem very fun to me.

Lee’Mon: Ah, nice to see you finally stop clinging to that video-game-violence soapbox and get down to what I originally wanted to argue: are these games actually fun? However, you’ve gotten me started now, so I’ll give you a brief repast while I counter that argument, then present my grand theory on it all.

Don’t like dying right away? I assume you don’t play Excessive Overkill too much, then. Yes, I know, Excessive lets you spawn right back, but that’s a good point for both sides. With Excessive, you die, you come back fully loaded. You don’t give a rat’s ass about dying, other than getting pissed off about it. The act of dying has no permanent consequence.

With realism-based mods, when you die, you’re likely stuck there for awhile. You’re out of the action. It leads to an interesting tactic: NOT DYING. You learn to be quiet, sneaky, and how to not plow into a room with both guns blazing. It’s not an attempt to mimic reality; it’s primarily an attempt to cater to a different set of action strategists.

As for realism: First off, “realism” is a relative term, not a dictionary definition. We let most Total Converions use material that was originally in the game, so we’ll let realism mods games break a few laws of physics, if for no other reason than they’re far lesser offenders than Quake. Just as you’re having trouble distinguishing between realism games and realism, you also seem to have trouble distinguishing between violence and images of violence.

You’re frightened by realism games? GOOD. I was afraid your reaction to these displays of violence wouldn’t be any different than real violence. To take a different perspective, maybe more realism is agood thing. If more players like you question the mindless violence you partake in with every round of Quake, perhaps you’ll take a close look and learn more about your own motivations.

In real life, your weapon (or violent emotions) are something you keep sheathed until you know are going to need it. Once you unsheathe it, it has to be used. It’s an exercise in channelling your emotions and keeping a cool head. Compared to the endless killing fields of Quake, realism mods keep you more in check, by making you stop being so mindlessly trigger-happy and start using some survival tactics. You never hear about a high school killer that played Rainbow Six… that game takes patience.

Spyke: True. But it all boils down to what you think is fun. If you like to creep around stealthily in fear of being shot at and sitting around for a while, I guess realistic games are the way to go. What I’m trying to say here is that I believe fans of Quake/2/3 Arena would most likely prefer games that were, while not unrealistic as possible, much less realistic than games like Rainbow Six. Remember the big physics fiasco back around version 3.15 of Quake 2? The physics were made “more realistic”. People hated it. That incident proved that the majority of Quake fans like things unrealistic, to allow for maximum escapism.

I suppose the same thing goes for fantasy/RPG games. Who wants to play an RPG game where you’re a human, gaining experience by mowing lawns and going to school for a lengthy amount of time? Nobody. They want games where nothing is real, and you’re in a completely different universe, where precious little is the same as it is on Earth.

Lee’Mon: Perhaps. Personally, I welcome any new addition to the action genre, and that includes realistic shooters. The sci-fi first-person shooter has been way too overdone. Q3A will be the last vanilla DM shooter I buy… any successors had better bring something original to the table.

(As a side note, the 3.15 incident is most noted not for creating “more realistic” physics, but for making a critical change to a game that already had an established fanbase… then, changing it back. The result is that everyone got mad; those that never wanted it changed in the first place, as well as those that liked the change and got upset when it was replaced. It happens over and over, from Counter-Strike’s alphas, to Q3F. Realism isn’t the primary factor; changing an established game is.)

You think realism games are slow. Some people thing RTS games are slow. Some people thing RPGs are slow. A LOT of people think FPS games are too damn fast. I’ve said it far too many times this battle, but it’s all relative. If you don’t want to play realistic games, fine. But they’re not a fad; they are here to stay. Realistic games are just another style of game that I hope will settle in comfortably beside all those “blast the aliens and find the door keys” games out there. Us FPS fanatics may argue the differences, but to most folks, they’re both ACTION GAMES! C’mon, say those two words with me… ACTION… GAMES.

Spyke: Realism, as a whole, is done very poorly in ACTION GAMES. Resources just aren’t available, and technology just doesn’t move fast enough. There is no way a computer can simulate reality in an action game, and if computers ever can, it’ll be a while. Until then, anything claiming to be realistic is just a poor substitute. Realism is best left to sports and driving/flying simulation games, where objects can be given attention to look as much like the real thing as possible. Action games thrive on fiction, not fact; to base a game completely on fact might be fun, but extremely slow moving and a great deviation from the games we currently play and enjoy. In conclusion, the surreality of current action games has made the genre what it is, and any more realism in the genre would be a great detriment. Thank you and good night.

Lee’Mon: Not bad… not bad at all. Think that Plasma Gun of yours can take on my M4A1 rifle?

Spyke: Realism has no effect in my surreal world! I bend time around your bullets and my timescale is thrice what yours is!

Lee’Mon: That reminds me… give me my Matrix DVD back.

Spyke sticks 10 bots in Q3DM17 with no gravity and a grappling hook on a regular basis.

Lee’Mon has stopped playing Q3F until a head shot on the Heavy Minigunner counts as an instant kill.

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