How realistic should a video game be? This question is often divisive among players because it can be so hard to pin down exactly what we want from realism and what we want from fantasy.

Realism in Fantasy Games

Fantasy games often have a lot of creative freedom when it comes to realism. After all, designers don’t have to create hyper-realistic characters in a world with dragons and magic, right? Or do they?

Traditional MMOs like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV have a very unique and recognizable art style that sets it apart from realism. This fantasy art-style sets the expectation from the outset that realism isn’t a core concept of the game. However, realism is still often an important talking point. Players will question how their epic armor can be truly impenetrable when their midriff and thighs are totally exposed. Some games or some mods try to address these issues by adding more realism. For example, the Frostfall mod in Skyrim is extremely popular. This mod tracks the player’s location, the weather, the time of day, and level of clothing to determine how cold the player would be. To avoid becoming hypothermic in these conditions, the player has to light torches to increase their warmth.

The fantasy game’s universe differs in some ways to our universe, but not all ways. Therefore, there will always be aspects of realism in fantasy games.

Realism in Non-Fantasy Games

Players are often much more invested in realism for non-fantasy games. For example, Call of Duty and Warzone players will often debate how realistic the gun feels. For some players, a good game is one that has very accurate ballistics and an accurate portrayal of historic events. This realism can even span into the core mechanics of a game like in Escape from Tarkov where you stand to lose all your gear if you die – something that would happen in real life. This mechanic really raises the stakes of the game, but can also stunt progress if players feel reluctant to wear their best gear. This is why so many players opt for EFT boosting services on providers like Eldorado gg to help them through common quests.

Other players are less focused on hyper-realism and instead want a game that allows players to compete based on fast reaction times or player skill. But you don’t have to fall into one camp or the other, you can have both stylization and realism in the same game.

Survival games often try to focus more heavily on realism when it comes to survival aspects. Players have to build shelter, hunt for food, protect their resources from enemies, and so on. But this doesn’t mean the game is realistic either. For example, consider ARK Survival Evolved. The hunter-gatherer aspects of the game are realistic, but there are also dinosaurs which is not so realistic (in 2020 at least). If you want to start playing today, you can buy ARK Survival Evolved accounts online.

Hyper Realism and The Uncanny Valley

People often think that the reason we haven’t seen hyper-realistic human faces in games until recently is due to our level of technological advancement. This is only part of the story. Sure, in the past, it was incredibly difficult to create truly human-looking characters because our graphics capabilities simply wouldn’t allow it. But we’re no longer in the world. So, how much so many games still opt for vaguely human-looking characters or completely cartoonish characters like in Valorant or Overwatch? It’s the Uncanny Valley.

The premise of the Uncanny Valley is simple. It says that if you give human qualities to something that is clearly not human, like an animal for example, then we find it be endearing, cute, fun, acceptable. However, if we give the character too many human characteristics, then it starts to look like a creepy simulation of a human.  This unsettled feeling continues to increase the more human characteristics we give the thing, but completely goes away if the thing has so many human characteristics that it’s indistinguishable from a human.

Realism Vs Fantasy – Which is better?

In fantasy games and non-fantasy games, there needs to be a balance of realism and fantasy. It’s the familiar and mundane aspects of a game that create superb world-building. It’s the realistic aspects that help the fantasy elements seem spectacular. It’s what makes you feel like a hero in a new universe. A game completely devoid of anything “real” or familiar would be jarring to the point of being absurd.

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.