For me, gaming has always been about being able to escape reality, experience adventures, and just have fun while playing. Franchises like Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong, etc. (basically most Nintendo games) exemplify this. However, as technology and generational tastes evolve, games have become more realistic in their depiction of characters and environments. A perfect example of this is the popular Grand Theft Auto franchise (GTA for short). Considered controversial for it’s realistic approach to character design, while also glorifying violence and sex, GTA as a game carries some weight to it. What I think is important to note with it, is how gaming visuals have become very close to appearing more than just “realistic”.
Above you can see a trailer of a franchise I hold dear and is cutting edge in terms of “realistic” graphics. Like GTA, Metal Gear is a franchise that prides itself on being visually appealing and looking more or less life-like. Unlike a Mario or Sonic game, players get the feeling the the events and actions within the game can actually occur in life. The thing about GTA, specifically looking at the 5th installment (GTA V), is the level of realism within the game. Just from this video, you can take control of one of the main characters and take your dog out for a walk on the town. Little seemingly menial things like this, highlight how real gaming can get.
Also, if you watched the video, you should have noticed that it takes place from a 1st person perspective for parts of it. 1st person isn’t particularly new to the gaming medium (Doom, Far Cry). However, the actions you can take in GTA V highlight the negative aspects of “realistic” gaming.I chose to post a picture here of a 1st person interaction between the playable character and prostitute. In GTA V, you can pick up prostitutes and then pay them to do things of sexual nature with your character. It’s not completely graphic in terms of showing genitalia, but it does show the actions being taken between the playable character and the prostitute (oral sex and sexual intercourse for example). Now this was already a controversial topic in gaming, but the addition of 1st person made it a bigger issue. Being able to do things of a sexual nature from a POV perspective is questionable, especially for a game that is popular, and many pre-18 year olds play (mostly because they’re parents may not know what the game includes).
In a world where we try to shelter kids, and try to limit their exposure to any and all graphic material, the GTA series has always been that specific entity that doesn’t “pull its punches” and does/shows whatever it wants. Looking at the video below, you can see that if you want to emulate a serial killer and commit murder, you can go ahead and do so.
In this video, one of the GTA V protagonists (Trevor) is seen torturing a man for information. Interrogation by torture is hotly debated topic in regards to how military and federal institutions ascertain their information. By incorporating it into the game, GTA adds to its already existing controversial nature. It’s not that I these scene/gameplay to be particularly graphic in nature or bothersome, but it is something that begs the question of what is and isn’t acceptable to be put into video games (or depicted through any medium).
For the most part, I find that games allow people to experience new and interesting things. “Realistic” games, for me, allow you delve into more personal gaming, where reality can be blurred with fantasy. It allows the players to act however they want within the gaming world, with no real world consequence. This is because no matter what, these things you’re playing are just games. They’re not real. I can differentiate that and I’d say that the vast majority can to. However, as games keep pushing the boundaries of possessing realistic qualities, will a line be crossed where fantasy and reality can’t be differed? Better yet, has that line already been crossed? Fortunately, I don’t think that line has been and isn’t near being touched in that aspect. I still think we’re far from experiencing such a phenomena, but that day could come at any time as technology continues to evolve. GTA V is just a small look at how realism in gaming is something to be looked at and studied in regards to its effects on the mind. Hopefully, games will always stay just games and avoid real-life consequences.