Tony’s Time: Disaster Doesn’t Make For a Fun Experience
This article comes from an experience that I had over the weekend that brought back a lot of memories from a similar event when I was a teenager. I don’t know how many of you have heard about the events that happened in Joplin, Missouri on Sunday evening, but the town was hit by an EF4 tornado that destroyed or damaged more than 2,000 buildings and has killed nearly 100 people. First of all, I want to say that my thoughts and prayers go to every family that was involved with that disaster over the weekend. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery.
We were driving home from our family vacation to Branson, MO over the weekend when the storm hit . I’ve lived through a tornado that destroyed a large part of a town before, but it didn’t compare to the thoughts running through my head on Sunday evening. It’s amazing how quickly a fun filled day can turn disastrous and deadly. Now that some time has passed I have been able to put together some quick thoughts about how people strive for realism in video games and how that may not necessarily be such a good thing.
Video game developers are always showing you the different ways they go out of their way to immerse players in the experience of their game. It can be as simple as just having someone come to talk to the development team to going out and spending time on gun ranges to accurately portray how weapons feel in someone’s hand. They’re always talking about how they want players to really feel like they’re part of the action, and after going through events like what happened over the weekend I wonder why they do so much. Who would actually want to feel like they’ve shot and killed another human being? Who really wants to experience the fear that comes with a natural disaster and having to deal with the aftermath of that event?
I don’t know about you, but I sit down with video games to get away from that feeling. I don’t ever want to have to face making sure that my three children and pregnant wife have shelter from a storm that, as was proved this weekend, could kill them. Living through a tornado and being in the relative safety of a building is one thing, but being out on the highway and not knowing when and where you might get to shelter is not an event that anyone should have to experience. It’s very different knowing that any decision you make could be erased with the press of a single button that allows you to replay those events again and again until you get it right. We talk about split second decisions in video games and how they can affect the outcome of a game, but what about those decisions actually meaning the difference between the life and death of a person you love.
Add to that just what these situations entail in real life. You’re living through a situation where you can’t see everything from the outside. You don’t have the luxury of HUD’s that give you all kinds of information at a seconds glance. Many times you’re making instantaneous decisions with little to no information. Communication is severely limited. It’s not like in a game where you seem to be the only one with cell phone reception. Phone lines get clogged. People are scared, they’re confused. They’re looking anywhere they can for help.
There’s no chance that you’re going to have everything you need to make the best possible decision. Then if you make the wrong decision you can’t go back and fix it. You’ll never have the experience in a game that a real life disaster would give you. No matter how much developers try to bring realism into their games it will always be lacking something, and I have to say that sometimes I think that’s a good thing. I ended up helping out a few different couples who were trying to find their way to anyplace that would be able to give them a room for the night. All of the hotels in the area were understandably booked solid. They didn’t have a map and their GPS was only directing them to roads that had been closed off. It took some old fashioned map reading skills to help them find someplace that was in the right direction that would lead them to a place where they could stay for the night.
Now don’t get me wrong. I like watching movies about natural disasters, or playing games that deal with the events after a nuclear war as much as the next person, but I don’t want those games coming with the cost of the emotions that you have to deal with in those situations. It’s good to know that if for some reason things get too intense in a game or I make a bad decision it can be erased. That’s why I play video games. They’re my chance to do something fun with a few hours of my time. I don’t want to turn on a game like Disaster: Day of Crisis or Fallout 3 and be reminded of those times when danger was near and a bad decision could put my family seconds away from life threatening danger.
I like to spend a few hours of my time where my decisions can have an impact, but realism and life is never brought into the equation.