From Juggernauts to Humans: A Look at Realism in Gaming

By Carlin Au

New games like Serious Sam 3 and Red Orchestra 2 really show how games have evolved in the past two decades. Back in the 90s, you had a gun – you point it at things and they disappear. As technology grew, details like real-world bullet trajectories, and environmental destruction have emerged. It’s no surprise that as technology grows, people will grow too, but that’s a topic for another day. For now, let’s talk about how games have gotten more realistic.

The 90s

Ah the ’90s… I remember the good old days. Actually no, not really. I wasn’t even born in time for the beginning of 3D gaming. People who have been in the ’90s will remember games like Doom, Quake and Duke Nukem. It was the age where aliens and monsters pop out and you’d scream as their pixels appeared on the screen. It’s the classic corridor, run-and-gun games where you have as many guns as you can count and carry them all like you’re a tank on legs.


Even though you’re a force to be reckoned with, you’ve still got a health and armor system. It’s basically your standard 100 Health and 100 Armor system. Games from this age of gaming leave health packs around the map so that the player may replenish his health and start shooting again. A health system like this, where the player can only replenish through picking up items, is great. Nothing is better than a panicking player who is down to one health point and facing off with a Cyberdemon. OH THE HORRORS! There’s a lot of fun and memorable times with a 100 Health and 100 Armor system.


Not only can the player obtain health packs, but other power-ups that can be found around the map in some games. Power-ups can turn the player into Superman or make a player walk like Flash. It’s really awesome to have some of these power-ups to help you ease through the game. They add a little spice into your gameplay. Overall, most power-ups that players can find usually allow for superhuman abilities that help throughout gameplay.


Power-ups aren’t the only things that players could pick-up… There are also shiny weapons that  can be found in corners or even floating atop a pedestal. Most games back then feature two types of weapons: the normal ones like the shotgun or pistol and the cool weapons like the chaingun or plasma cannon. There’s a few over-the-top weapons that can freeze enemies into statues of ice or shrink them like they’re toys from your childhood. Weapons like these are extremely fun to use and make the game interesting.


With interesting weapons come interesting enemies. A lot of the games in that period had a futuristic setting with enemies ranging from your standard Pig Cop in Duke Nukem 3D to the tripodal Vores in Quake. There’s a lot of variety in enemies as there is in how the AI attacks you. Some enemies will try to blow you up like the Headless Kamikaze Men in Serious Sam or shoot your head off at range. There’s a wide variety of enemies to shoot at there’s many ways you can deal with them.

Progress Advancements:

Have you died a couple of times? Can’t seem to get past a certain part? Need something to help you along? Here’s your answer: with the supernatural ability to relive any time and anywhere, try quick saving! Quick saves will save you (no pun intended) whenever you need it to. Whether it be from a giant boss fight or the armored mutant in the toilet stall, quick saving will help you. I can’t say how many times this has helped me be prepared for what’s to come. However, quick saving can be too much of a good thing. If the AI is too hard, quick saving will become a chore for you to do every time you enter a giant firefight.

That was Then and This is Now

Welcome to the new age of gaming where we have thrown out all the shiny big guns for small rifles that have all the scratches you can imagine! Technology has made gaming a lot more realistic since the 90’s in terms of graphics, gameplay, and taste.

Health and Abilities:

Developers have kicked the health and armor meters off the screen and added red blotches instead. Players now regenerate health instead of playing hide-and-seek with health packs. Now, I’m not going to say regenerating health is realistic -it’s not, but it does help the game feel a little more tactical. When you get shot, your screen turns red which means you have to get down into cover and wait for yourself to heal. In my opinion, I think regenerating health was a great way to replace the old system. You don’t have to look for health packs, so you can get back into the fight quicker.

Abilities like super speed and invulnerability have been taken out.  What comes in place of them? Perks.  Perks aren’t as powerful as the abilities in the 90’s, but they still help. For example, instead of running at Flash speed, you’ll only run as fast as 1/9999 of his speed. Perks in games have  become more and more integral to games since Call of Duty 4. We’ve seen it in Call of Duty, Homefront,  Brink, Killing Floor, Borderlands, Fallout, and even Battlefield. These abilities aren’t realistic either, but they aren’t as extreme as they used to be. With perks in games now, they add a sense of personalization in how each person plays the game.


So it seems that as technology progresses, the weapons we’ve been given have been… degrading. By Golly Gee Wilikers, they’ve thrown out all the space lasers and gave us a gun with a couple scratches on it. That sounds like a good trade-off. Alright, I’ll stop taking a dump on the way we’ve changed weapons, but I would still like to see more innovative guns like the gravity gun from Half-Life 2. Anyway, yes, guns in games are more realistic because they are actual weapons that have been made in real life. Most guns in games are modeled fairly accurately with bullet drops, tactical reloads, and aesthetic looks. The only characteristic that may not be as accurate would be the way the weapon fires. It could be a cone-shaped pattern or a straight-line pattern; it’s up to the studio to decide how weapons fire in the game.


Well, enemies in modern games aren’t exactly varied. Sure, you’ll be fighting the all-evil Russian army or the People’s Liberation Army, but in the end, it’s always going to be a dude in a black suit. I find that a lot of games try to tell me, “No, no they ARE varied. You see, this guy is holding and rifle and that guy is picking his nose with an RPG.” Oh, that’s some good variation. Hell, I’m more worried about them hurting themselves than them killing me. You can’t do much complaining though; the setting of today’s games simply doesn’t fit the usage of anything drastic. But, you know, a few tanks or choppers as game bosses couldn’t hurt, would it? Sometimes, I feel that if the game could give me a bigger challenge like sending an AC-130 after me and then giving me the tools to take it down without blatantly showing them to me, that would be a fun segment to play.

Progress Advancements:

I really liked quick saving. Why couldn’t games just stick with this system…? It’s almost as if the game told me,”Liked quick saving? Bah! Too bad, here’s a checkpoint. Now step on it, and every time you die, we’ll toss you into the same mob of enemies that you have to try (AND fail) to kill.” Sounds like fun, right? Yeah, not really. You see, checkpoints are bad because they force you to see the same thing over and over again until you can remember where they spawn and where they’ll shoot you  I don’t want to memorize the AI’s movements and reactions… I want it to be a surprise when I find them.

Realism – For the Better or Worse?

Alright, so games have changed pretty drastically in the FPS genre. Most FPS games today have become realistic in at least some form. If the gameplay doesn’t feel realistic, the graphics are at least true to life. However, for some people, realism in games can be good or bad. Not everyone likes the direction that games have been shoved into, but that’s why games like Serious Sam 3 come out. We all have our own preferences, so whether or not realism in gaming is a good change is up to you. There’s really no wrong answer.

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7 thoughts on “From Juggernauts to Humans: A Look at Realism in Gaming

  1. Actually, I much prefer the 100-health system. Regenerating gets you back in the game faster, but it also takes the tension out of the experience. There’s nothing more exciting than taking down that Cyberdemon with only one health left, fighting frantically through a room full of low-level monsters, and then coming upon a large health kit. Knowing you battled impossible odds and WON is a rush.

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