Thursday, June 15, 2006

Escapism vs Realism

Now that the Next Generation of consoles is upon us (or according to Sony, hasn't happened without their console), much ado on "realistic graphics" has come about by many in the gamer community. Sony and Microsoft fanboys alike have frothed over the idea of High Definition content which brings the smaller details in life to the gamescreen.

In contrast, the Wii-supporters insist that graphics aren't enough. Nintendo has put power in the backseat with their extremely popular Nintendo DS and the soon to come Wii console. Their focus has shifted to new experiences via a change in control schemes. The tantalizing idea of changing gameplay as we know it is grabbing the attention of all gamers; even the fanboys of the competition. Skeptics are everywhere, but the general feel in the community is positive.

One point the skeptics bring to the table is that the Wii will lack realism without HD graphics and a powerful processor. The high amount of detail that PC owners have and 360 owners are coming to enjoy is just not going to happen with the Wii's proposed specs. The skeptics insist that a new control scheme will gimmick itself out and the Wii will be left in the dust. The general retort is that motion control adds realism in itself because it requires more response from the player.

The result is the question, "Is realism or escapism is more important?" It could be said that realism can aid escapism to some extent. However, escapism is certainly not dependent upon realism. This is a good thing, and it propels imagination and creativity.

Escapism is a large reason to play video games. Just about all video games allow the player to experience a ficticious world that is separate from their own via first or third person perspective. The popularity of RPGs, first-person shooters, and MMO's can attest to this. Final Fantasy, Halo 2, and World of Warcraft are examples of these respectively. All of these games pit players in worlds and situations that are far from realistic.

Even puzzle games could be considered escapism. In games like Tetris or Lumines, the player can forget about the real world and just submerge themselves in creating lines or squares. Why the blocks are falling is inconsequential. The player is given a non-real-world task to complete, and part of the challenge is to concentrate solely on that meaningless task.

Good graphics or not, all of these games provide entertainment through providing surreal atmospheres for gamers to get lost in. The entertainment experience is similar to watching sci-fi movies, except the medium requires user interaction. In movies, the viewer experiences a world created by the studios, and escape to it for a couple of hours. Games do the same except for longer periods of time. One point to take from movies is that even older films without CG, high definition, or up-to-date effects can still be enjoyable.

With this information in mind, it is easy to say that escapism takes precendent to realism. Whether or not that basketball player has sweat cascading down his skin isn't an ultimate deciding factor to whether the escapism is fullfilling or not. It may help a bit, but unless the development team is able to capture the full attention of the gamer, then the escapism is likely to be short-lived rendering the realism meaningless.


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