Galloway points out that realism in gaming cannot be held to the standards of realism at play in other mediums since gaming involves representation and action. This active component gives any hope of realism within gaming an added challenge. It is not enough to simply represent a world realistically with the appropriate images; a game’s actionable component must be a realistic representation of the engagements the game is trying to depict. Realism, for Galloway, requires a criticism of an actual landscape. In this way I think realism is essentially about a depiction of pain. A realistic depiction is shows the miserable aspects of life in gritty detail, even when these details are not particularly important to the plot, so that the audience (or player) can feel the experience. Galloway feels as though that some video games can accomplish a degree of realism, but I’m less optimistic.
Realism requires a true to life depiction of consequence. When something happens in a realistic depiction of a thing, the consequences of the actions have the lasting sort of impact that they would in real life, and video games naturally struggle with this sort of consequence. For instance, consider video games based around war: one cannot claim that a depiction of war where after being mortally wounded a character reappears a few seconds later, or where corpses simply disappear after an allotted amount of time. Yet this happens all the time in video games, saving the player from experiencing the true to life horror of war, by lessening the consequences.
The reason for a video game’s struggle to produce realistic game play might be due to the natural limits on programming. It is simply impractical to have every corpse produced in a round of Call of Duty to linger to the finale. But I think the more fundamental reason gaming is incapable of reaching the level of realism at play is how it is meant to be experienced. In some sense gaming has to be fun, and they are judged accordingly. That is, the quality of every game is in some way determined by how fun it is to play. Even games which according to Galloway score high points for realisticness like Under Ash have this purpose in mind. Meanwhile, other aesthetic mediums are not so restricted. For instance, I doubt anyone could tastefully call a viewing of “Schindler’s List” ‘fun’ yet this doesn’t seem to detract from the film’s quality. So film can realistically represent the harsh details of a circumstance, even to the point that our experience of the film is not enjoyable in the traditional sense, without diminishing its quality. Video games are not so unrestricted in their representative qualities. They must tone done the consequences of the actions they depict in order to keep the game enjoyable, which prevents it from being a truly realistic representation.
The interesting problem that I’m getting at is the aesthetic value of tragedy. Depictions of pain have an aesthetic value, which is commonly considered to be the highest form of aesthetic experience. (After all, when was the last time a comedy or action flick won best picture? Its almost always a drama.) This form of aesthetic experience is one which isn’t rightfully categorized as enjoyable, but is nonetheless good on some level. Video games can’t affect this type of experience, because a person’s experience of a video game, is on some level meant to be fun to play.