Gaming has come a long way since the days of Pong, Tetris, and Space Invaders. With the non-stop evolution of computing hardware, software developers always have exciting new toys to play with and help breath life into whatever their imaginations can dream up.
However, despite many years of evolution and how far games have come in terms of realism, there are still some mechanics employed by many games that make no sense whatsoever. These aspects of gaming are things we've come to expect, not because they have any ties to reality, but because they are necessary to provide a smooth, exciting, and entertaining experience.
Keep in mind that I'm not complaining about these features being included in games, I'm merely poking fun at us all for accepting them as normal and not questioning our sanity. In the famous words of director Tony Scott, "Never let reality get in the way of a good movie", or in this case, a good game. Here are the top 20 unrealistic game mechanics still used today.
Most FPS games encourage you to aim down your sights to get an accurate kill, and when doing so you aim using whatever sights your firearm is equipped with. When shooting from the hip though, you have these shiny, magic lines that pinpoint more or less where your bullets will go.
Now I'll admit that I haven't fired many firearms, but I am yet to see those illusive crosshairs when holding a gun by my side. My eyesight isn't what it used to be though, so maybe I'm just due for an eye exam.
How often have you saved your own life from an invading zombie horde by picking up a white pack with a red cross on it and rubbing it all over your aching body? While there are countless commercial products you can rub over yourself to some positive effect, I do not think any of those will instantly cure bullet holes.
EAT OR SLEEP TO HEAL
I love sleeping, and I love eating even more. If it was at all possible for me to live in such a way, I'd sleep half the day, wake up, eat all the yummy things I crave, play some games, eat again, and go back to sleep. Unfortunately, such a lifestyle would not be viable, or healthy. In fact, as you get older, it's all the more possible for food to make you feel sick or a long night's rest to leave you with an aching body.
So why is it then that so many games have you gaining health simply by eating a meal or taking a nap? Falling asleep and hoping you wake up without your ailments from the night before, is quite literally the human version of "Have you tried turning it off and on again?"
REGENERATE HEALTH WHEN OUT OF COMBAT
Magical medic packs, food and rest aren't the only methods games let you mend broken bones and close up flesh wounds. Sometimes, all you need to do is not get shot at, or in other words… exist. Now I hate going to the doctor as much as the next person but ignoring a sword to the gut and hoping it'll go away by itself does not seem like sound advice to me.
I'm sure you all saw this one coming. Have you ever held an actual medieval longsword or chainmail? Let me assure you, weapons and armor are heavier than the metal in a Slipknot album. Somehow though, so many RPG games will have you believe that all you need to do to carry 50 of these monstrosities, is to put them in a backpack and two-strap it over your shoulders while you skip on merrily through the dark forest to grandma's house.
SLOWED MOVEMENT FROM ONE ITEM TOO MANY
Some games, at least try to make you reconsider the number of kite shields and breastplates you drag around by having it affect the movement speed of your character. In most cases, however, this still isn't completely accurate since you can carry an obscene number of items with you and still be fine until you decide to pick up the pretty tambourine that goblin just dropped. All of a sudden your character limps around like he lost a leg until you let go of your music dreams and leave the tambourine behind.
CARRY MULTIPLE GUNS
This trend has decreased greatly with modern FPS', but back in the day, nearly every shooter game had around 10 weapons available for you to find and of course, you could carry all of them simultaneously so you can seamlessly switch from shotgun to sniper rifle to rocket launcher. These games usually didn't include something like an inventory pack so I shudder to think where these are pulled from. Perhaps you walked around with a large magnet on your back where these guns would just hang from. From a first-person point of view, you'd never know.
Modern shooters are not as guilty of this anymore, but they're not entirely innocent. I can guarantee you won't be able to run up a mountain while carrying a Bullpup automatic rifle as well as a Barrett 50 cal sniper rifle like you can in Call of Duty.
SKIMPY FEMALE ARMOR
I don't know where to start with this one. The idea behind wearing armor is to protect your body, you know from a potential blade aimed at cutting off a limb or an arrow on its way to pierce your heart. When you cover larger areas of your body, you generally have better protection… Unless you were born with XX chromosomes it seems.
For some inexplicable reason, all a woman needs to kill a thousand monsters and demons is a steel bikini. Perhaps the theory is that monsters are as attracted to a pretty girl's body as much as we are and therefore will be too distracted to kill her? I can only imagine how those garments must chafe.
FALLING FROM GREAT HEIGHTS
There are way fewer games that are guilty of this one but even with modern "realistic" games you still find this every so often. Assassin's Creed, all 7 million of them, will try to convince you that all you need is a bale of hay to break your fall and you can jump all the way from Jupiter without concern. Have any of you tried jumping on a bale of hay? It's not soft, despite popular belief to the contrary. If you jump from the roof of a bell tower onto some straw, I doubt you'll be walking again any time soon, and you'll be picking straw out of your butt for weeks.
I'd like you to picture this for a moment. Imagine an enormous creature, filled with hate, spewing molten lava from his mouth and swinging his bus-sized club at this little human adventurer while said human runs around him sideways like a drunk crab, giving the occasional hop and then firing his bow and arrow up the monster's nostrils. Personally, I'd try hiding every so often and using my smaller size to surprise the beast, but in gaming, all you need to do is slide to the left… slide to the right… criss-cross…
JUMPING LIKE YOUR ON THE MOON
Speaking of weird movements, how is it that characters from fighting games always seem to defy gravity when their feet leave the ground? I remember the days of playing Kung-Fu on my trusty SNES and leaping effortlessly through the air like a member of the Crown of the Russian Ballet, before kicking the snot out of my opponent on my way down. Many fighting games today even let you perform high-damage combos while in the air as if gravity was happliy cheering you on before remembering that it had a job to do.
JUMPING OUT OF WATER
This one is not as common but still present in many an action game. Swimming through the denseness that water provides is difficult enough for us humans who weren't designed to be particularly proficient at it, but jumping out of a lake when you were submerged up to your armpits… You'd need the hindquarters of a grasshopper for that kind of weirdness.
How much simpler would life be if you could check out a chart of your life and unlock new skills by completing certain tasks? I would plan out my whole life going, "All I need is to make scrambled eggs 3 more times and I can unlock my Gordon Ramsay, Beef Wellington skill." This is exactly how the leveling system in games work, only skills are usually unlocked by killing something and the skill can have little to nothing in common with the action you just performed to unlock it. "Congratulations! You just killed your 50th skeleton warrior, you now know how to breathe fire", because logic.
LIMITED CAR DAMAGE
This is the one that can turn the average soccer mom into Ayrton Senna. So many racing games have dumbed down racing mechanics that make it easier for bad drivers to win races, and in some cases, you don't even have to race, you just need to knock the opponents out of the way.
Fortunately, there are games like Gran Turismo and the endless list of F1 titles that humble those types of players in an instant. Let's see how you finish the Hungarian Grand Prix with only 3 wheels and half a front end Evel Knievel.
There are many things we could say about the inner workings of real-time strategy games but I think the one thing that's baffled me most of all is, how do you get 5 gazillion troops from that one little barracks? Where do they all sleep? Do they share bunks? What's the shower arrangement like? Where are the catering trucks that keep them all fed? All valid questions, all impossible to answer.
The one thing that limits the madness mentioned above is supply caps. While it does help level things out somewhat, it introduces a whole new list of questions. So, you've got your 20 unit army but you can't build more until you add another farm/house/supply depot or whatever. This will let you add 8 more units to your ranks, unless you want to build vehicles, then you can only add 4, or 3 aircraft, or 2 giant robots, etc, etc, etc. I never knew that a giant death robot needed a wooden cottage to sleep in before it'll be willing to vanquish my enemies, it's a good thing RTS games have educated me in this regard.
Militaries must be developing some incredible technology because Call of Duty and Battlefield will convince you that soldiers can run around with 30 extra magazines, that somehow fit universally into every single rifle ever made, including the foreign weapons wielded by your enemies. Not only that but ejecting a half-empty clip will magically redistribute the leftover ammunition into your remaining arsenal of magazines. Not a single bullet wasted then, admirable.
As a lifelong geek, I'll admit that my fitness levels have never been extraordinary. I can go for the occasional jog or suffer through a mild training session, but the adventurers of old must have been drinking some special kind of jungle juice that gave them the endurance of a rabid Tasmanian devil on crack. I mentioned earlier how heavy actual weapons and armor are, but somehow game characters can out-run Forest Gump while clanking down the road in their iron suit of death and destruction. And if they somehow do get tired, there's usually a vile with a milky concoction that will replenish their oxygen supply and have them win the Boston Marathon.
This list would not have been complete without mentioning loot drops. I dare not think how many hours of my life has been lost in search of senseless things like the Battle Axe of Destiny or the Horned Helm of Buttered Toast.
Why is it that magical realms, dungeons, hell pits and even fully populated human cities have random treasure chests standing around, filled with weapons capable of vanquishing the world of evil? Did someone forget to put away their toys and now the whole world can run around like Conan the Barbarian? Maybe I'm weird, but if I had some valuable treasure I'd either spend it or, I don't know, put it somewhere safe. Who just forgets about their treasure chests? Spoiled demi-gods who weren't spanked as children, that's who.
And why do monsters drop these spectacular items when you kill them? They weren't using that Glowing Sword of Voluptuousness when they eat your brains, but it magically appeared from somewhere when you ended their lives. Where were they keeping it? My personal philosophy is to never touch things when you don't know where they've been.
And so we round up our list with probably the most unrealistic feature of all time, the ability to pause time so you can have a pee. Don't worry, the children of darkness will wait patiently for you while you void your bladder, they wouldn't want you uncomfortable while you're slaughtering their comrades.
It would be cool though if life had such a feature. I'd pause time and take 17 naps a day.
There you have it guys and gals, our top list of unrealistic video game mechanics. Are there any we missed? Which ones can you absolutely not game without? As a father of a tiny human, I find that pause button quite handy and I'm a pretty big fan of endless troop generation when playing Starcraft II. I'd hate to have to steal the children of a nearby village and having to wait for them to mature to the point where I won't lose the battle through friendly-fire before I can launch an invasion.