With the launch of the current console generation, video games have adapted a serious emphasis on immersion. They are all about finding a way to make players feel like they are part of the game. Game developers want players to feel like they are entering a world. This helps make the game more enjoyable for players, which is always great, but the real motive is keeping players in the game and away from the competition.
Even though game developers are focused on making games more immersive, all too often they throw things in the game that break the feel and remind you that you are playing a game. These gameplay trappings will suck you out of the living, breathing world and remind you that it’s just a game. Unfortunately it’s hard to think of alternatives for some of these staples of games, but hopefully, with the incoming next generation of consoles, developers will find alternate ways to accomplish these actions.
Eating & Drinking To Gain Health
I love food as much as the next guy. I also need food to keep me alive just like everyone else. However, what food and drink does not do for me is heal my wounds. If I got attacked by a zombie, I cannot just drink some orange juice and eat some bacon and magically be healed. In video games, it’s far too common to eat some food and have your health restored. Eating and drinking to heal sucks you out of the game and reminds you that it’s not the real world incredibly quickly. Food keeps us alive, but sadly, it does not do it instantly like so many video games want you to believe.
So what’s the solution? It’s a tough one to fix; you need a way to heal in a game or you would die constantly and need to respawn, which is not overly realistic, but I can let respawns slide, as a game just wouldn’t be fun if you had only one life. Really, it comes down to the story of the game. Story creators need to find a way to write healing into the game. If there is a story hook as to why eating heals you, then I can deal with it. Developers can also replace food with some sort of medicine. The key really comes to creating a story hook as to why you are able to heal.
As you can see, health is a major issue when it comes to breaking the realism in video games. Eating and drinking is annoying because as we’ve established, it really doesn’t heal you. On the other side of the equation, there is regenerating health, which is obviously unrealistic. Getting shot, bitten, beaten, stabbed or any of the other things that cause you to get hurt in gaming is obviously painful, and hiding behind a wall for five seconds should not be all it takes to heal.
The solution for this comes back to the food issue; find a story way to make healing make sense. Either get rid of the regenerating health and require an item to heal, or add some sort of regenerating shield. Halo get’s this perfect. Master Chief can heal because he is wearing a special Spartan suit that regenerates after a short time. This makes sense in the context of the game, and more games need to implement a system like this.
This one is a real immersion killer. If I am in the middle of a warzone with people getting shot everywhere and the NPCs around me are going about their business like nothing is happening, that’s a real problem. To make a world feel like a living, breathing thing, the inhabitants should act like people would act in the real world. I don’t know about you, but if people around me were shooting at each other while I was walking down the street, I would be running and hiding so fast it would make your head spin.
The reason this happens is hardware limitations. There is only so much power, and making NPCs react to everything happening around them uses tremendous system resources. The fix? Use less NPCs. I understand developers want to populate the game world with lots of people, but if the people are lifeless and unresponsive, then why bother. Either use less NPCs or find a way to make them react authentically to the world around them. Hopefully, this will be fixed with the next console generation when the systems have more resources available.
Fixing immersion really just comes down to coming up with story hooks for the annoying problems. I can deal with any of these things if the game developer finds a way to make them fit in with the game world. When they are just thrown in because it’s the most convenient way to do it, it just feels lazy. Either fix the immersion breaker, or make it fit in with the world, and the gaming world will be a better place for all of us.