Games shouldn't aim for reality. Reality is shit.

Well, from a horrible, horrible cold, to a nasty, nasty stomach bug. What fun. One minute I was all tucked up in bed, ready for another Monday at work, the next minute (technically it was 220 minutes, but it doesn’t sound quite as colloquial) I was emitting jets from either end. Had I laid on my side I would have spun round like a Catherine Wheel. Dislike. Anyway, enough of that delightful imagery. Whilst in between dehydrating spurts, I spent a great deal of time watching videos of upcoming video games on the internet, because it was that or weep gently into my pillow and I was low enough on fluids as was.

I watched seventeen minutes of Hitman: Absolution, which looks absolutely amazing. I watched the trailer for Bioshock: Infinite which I’ve seen before but knew I wouldn’t mind watching again because it looks totally, absolutely amazing. I watched my own video of Batman: Arkham City because I am a vain, vain man and because it looks completely, totally, utterly amazing. I watched Syndicate, the first person shooter reboot of the old isometric shooter/puzzler, which looked completely, utterly, totally, mind numbingly, pant wettingly amazing. I watched others but I’m bored of thinking of adverbs to put before amazing. All of these games looked beautiful and engaging, the graphics were powerful, convincing and Godamnit, amazing. Even the narratives of these games appear well rounded – complex even, given the usual shallowness of computer game story telling. The combination of nearly believable visuals and semi mature character development within an even vaguely ripping yarn is a rarity in electronic entertainment, or rather it was. More and more titles are managing the holy trinity, creating something more akin to interactive films than games at all. Which is a good thing. Right?

Well, no, not for me. Don’t get me wrong I do like an involving, engaging, pretty-to-look-at game, I’ll even moan at the emptiness and ugliness of some content should it particularly offend me. The problem is that the more the line between film and game is blurred, the less I want to play the game and the more I want to watch it. When my eyes are given such sumptuous delights, and my brain asked to process much more than jump, shoot, good guy and bad guy, it kind of decides its not involved anymore, and is instead consuming, a part of the audience: I shall use Hitman as an example. The seventeen minutes I watched were of an early level in which our controllable hero is trying to escape a library that’s crawling with police. The level of detail is incredible, each book, dust dancing in the light, expressions of fear. The audio is just as accomplished, from each breath of each character, through the creaks of the building, to the gunfire and explosions. Obviously, from the small snippet of what is bound to be a game spanning many hours, I couldn’t comment on the depth and quality of the plot, but I am happy to say that having played the previous entries in the series, it will be good enough.

With my senses taking such a pounding, it’s quite difficult to remember to press buttons. At some point – to my mind – it stops being a game and starts being a film. Or programme. Whatever. It stops being something to be played, to while away the hours, and instead becomes something to let flow around me, to engage with but have no input into. I miss so much if I’m playing, there are bits of the environment, bits of dialogue, bits of action and even plot that are impossible to keep up with if you’re deciding whether to shoot or jump. Bits of stuff that I’d like to see, thanks very much, because they’re important, because they’re part of the experience. Because I bloody well paid for them.

Of course I want games to look good and draw me in, but not to the point at which I’m missing things. Not to the point at which I’m enjoying the tale thats being spun so much that the gameplay is getting in the way. Not to the point at which developers are trying to make an interactive film and not a game. When it’s more fun to watch than to play, something isn’t right. I might be alone on this and I’m used to that, but the closer games get to reality the more their creators are failing because I’ve seen reality and it’s absolutely no fun. Games are meant to be fun, right?

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