Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It's So Real!

Video games, movies, comic books, these are a few of my favorite things. Some of them employ fantasy landscapes and a new set of natural laws to glue your eyes to the screen, while others take advantage of their colorfully cliched characters to make you feel the gravity of the drama unfolding, even if it's as stupid as "Will Avalanche date Kitty and join the X-Men?" or "Will Raven and Beast Boy finally hold hands?" But the most powerful ability in the audience abducting arsenal of the mass media empire? Being totally realistic.

Hang on a second...

...What?
It's almost a guaranteed response when you ask somebody what they like about a particular game or movie, and on the other hand, if you ask why somebody didn't like a game or movie, it's because there wasn't enough of it. Enough of this thing people are calling "realism." The problem is that I haven't seen very much of anything that is actually "realistic" and the few things I have seen that properly depict realism have been boring as making microwave tea.

Bioshock, pictured above, is considered among the greatest games of the current generation, being your kid's version of Super Mario Bros. or Pac-Man. While I haven't actually played the game, I've seen footage and I admit it looks like it might be fun. What I don't understand is why all of my friends are claiming that it's super realistic. Really, there are things that must be evaluated here. Are the graphics realistic? Do they resemble real life in texture and lighting? Is it the voice acting that's realistic? The way in which the character handles the situation? The way the player character can react to a situation? The plot? What is realistic about this? What I see is a gun that's way too big to be held by a real man being aimed at a gigantic robotic bubble that was probably mining for gold when Mega Man came along and shot it in the ass.

"Well. It. Just. Something about it. Just. It just is." Thanks for clearing that up for me, largely-unexaggerated-yet-fictitious-friend.

What my friend here has illustrated to me is a lack of proper understanding of what reality actually is. It seems that there is some confusion with telling the difference between "gritty, gory, exploding" and "real." In order to be "realistic" you must be able to carry mini-guns on your own, bleed more blood than any human could possibly have, and remorselessly beat on human civilians.

Real people.
If I were a fetus born into the astral plane and sent to live in this "real world" physical plane as a fully formed and functioning adult, and had to learn my concepts of reality based on what games and movies were realistic, my idea of "real life" would be blood, violence, and the color brown absolutely everywhere. That seems to be the literal threshold in the audience. If blood comes out when a person gets hurts, that's one thing, but if there's enough blood to paint a bathroom sink? Well, boy, that's realistic!

Aside from how bland the world would be if everything were actually tinted with brown, the other two points present a problematic scenario for our world. What most people are claiming as "realistic" and praising with their asses in the air happens to be violence, blood shed, anger, hate, and unrelenting sex. Essentially "lawlessness" is the ideal vision of realism. Which says more about our societal psyche than about the industry's ability to continuously shovel out piles of festering shit.

If everyone has this idea that stealing cars and beating hoes are the building blocks of reality, what do people see when they wake up in the morning? What do they think as they walk down the street? Do people even acknowledge that reality isn't all about killing people and covering everything in blood?

Yes. They call those things "gay."
There also seems to be a recent phenomenon I like to call "grossly exaggerating the abilities of yourself and any other individual member of your species." In this phenomenon, a person will tell you that he is capable of killing an entire armed unit of Secret Service agents with a fork, and exactly how he would sneak through their defences to get to them. He will then go on to say that almost any other person in the world could do it, except for you, you're fat.

The truth is:

You're in gray. You're lucky to be breathing.
Aside from pointing out the psychological downfall of humanity, this notion that "it's good because it's realistic" has a brother in the form of "it's bad because it isn't realistic enough." What this means is that tool sheds will immediately dismiss anything that is a work of fiction, or possessing a character that isn't drawn with so much detail that his expression is unreadable, as "fake and gay."

Fake and gay!
This is, unfortunately, leaving the industry in such a sorry state that you really cannot tell the difference between the characters from one game to the next. There's also the idea of "escapism" as something to be ashamed of, when there really isn't anything wrong at all with picking up a book or a game to get the hell out of real life. Because dammit, I live in real life and I'm sick of it!

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