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Why Realism in Military Shooters isn’t Necessarily Good

One of the most requested features in modern gaming is extreme realism. Fanboys are often whining that a game does not accurately portray certain experiences or events. However, the majority of these complaints are likely based off of ignorance or misinformation. Often gamers don’t really know what they are asking for; more realistic games are not automatically more fun. To make a game more realistic, developers would usually have to sacrifice crucial game mechanics and strategies that inherently make games fun. The most obvious example of this sacrifice of realism for gameplay is in military shooters.

One example of realism potentially hurting the final product can be seen in military shooters, the games who usually strive for realism but are often criticized for their lack thereof. Most developers make a conscious decision to provide realism in some areas but preserve important game mechanics in other areas in exchange for realism. For example, on the Weekend Confirmed podcast, Spec Ops: The Line lead designer Cory Davis admitted that in developing the game, his team decided to sacrifice realism for gameplay in the combat system, specifically with the weaponry. He explained that if all guns in military shooters behaved like their real-world counterparts, one could play the entire game with one gun, as most real guns can operate at a larger variety of ranges than their video game versions. This eliminates the idea of having a “toolbox”, as Davis put it; the gamer does not need to consider which weapon is appropriate for each situation anymore.

Another example of an element of realism that would not make a military shooter more fun would be the implementation of a realistic health system. Very few shooters have ever done this, and those that have (Operation Flashpoint, for example) have not sold very well. The fact is, no game would be fun if one bullet effectively crippled your character. No longer would gamers be able to hide behind cover to heal their grievous wounds. They would instead have to play through the wound, their abilities severely compromised, if they survived at all. These games wouldn’t be fun anymore, unless you were a masochist.

While there will always be a niche audience for realism, I doubt there will ever be an audience for total realism, whether they are aware of its implications or not. Simply, realism is a detriment to a game’s fun factor, and that is why most military shooters take some creative license in designing their games, choosing not to portray total realism.



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  1. RealismFTW

    I strongly disagree with this. IMO games that claim to be realistic should be realistic. I am not saying that all the games should be realistic, but I find it funny that games like Battlefield 3 claim to be most realistic FPS game of the year. Yet they have some VERY unrealistic features like health regen, you can take like 4 rounds to chest from AK47 from 200 meters and live, sniper rifle round to chest won’t kill you. Some games that are actually somewhat realistic and do not sacrifice too much of the playability are games like America’s Army, Red Orchestra 2 (although its still quite buggy, but its mostly realistic)

  2. Trevor Hinkle

    Well, basically what I was saying is that games like Battlefield brag to general audiences that they are “realistic”, but behind the scenes they employ a lot of unrealistic gameplay systems, unbeknownst to the player oftentimes. Hopefully this clarifies this for you. As for games like America’s Army, there’s no denying they have an audience, but I would argue their audience does not represent the “core” gamer, the target of most publishers.


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