An effect on reality

In Alexander R. Galloway’s essay Social Realism in Gaming, the author underlines many important concepts regarding videogames today. These concepts reflect the ongoing state of videogame realism that connect the participant to the game. So what does it mean for a game to be realistic? It isn’t simply a mere simulation of what real life is, but in fact, a game is only truly realistic when the setting and events within the game are based on actual ones contained in real life. Only then does a gamer who plays said game become fully immersed and a actual psychological effect is elicited to the real life setting or event. It is an interesting theory, one that surely deserves further exploration.
Perhaps the most controversial of theories contained within the essay is that of the “Columbine theory” which holds that when someone plays violent games, it will in turn make the participant more violent. (Galloway) And while such a bold claim has played out in the very instances it is named after – the Columbine shooting – evidence of the existence of such gaming induced psychological effects is fleeting and primarily the subject of mere political speculation. Most, if not all people, and even children for that matter are able to discern the difference between reality and virtual reality. To say that video-games cause violence is to use the interactive medium as a scapegoat for another much deeply rooted problem in society. In the case of Columbine, the popular first person shooter Doom, a favorite among the two perpetrators, was said to be a culprit of influence in the event. And while Doom itself may have inspired violence, there is no evidence to prove it created killers. Mental illness, bad parenting, and easy access to guns should surely be considered the most prudent reason for why these terrible events occurred. So while Dylan and Eric played Doom many times before shooting up their school, so did millions of Americans, and the influence of violence from Doom on the rest society never elicited such a catastrophic effect.
So if games like Doom generally do not influence violence in the real world, is their any games that do. Galloway reference one such concept known as the “congruence requirement”. “I suggest there must be some kind of congruence, some type of fidelity of context that transliterates itself from social reality of the gamer, through one’s thumbs, into the game environment and back again. This is what I call the ‘congruence requirement’ and it is necessary for achieving realism in gaming. Without it there is no true realism.” (Galloway) The game that is referenced is known as Special Force and is a realistic simulation of the conflict in Israel and Palestine. In it, you are a Palestinian freedom fighter and take part in actual battles and events contained within the history of the conflict. Galloway concludes that such a game fit’s the congruence requirement because the game is based on realistic events and settings. If someone in Palestine were to play such a game it would more likely have an effect on their actual reality than a game like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto III.
So what does this all mean, and where is the state of games going? It seems easy to speculate that games will continue to become more and more real because that is what the market once. What effect will the realism in games have on society is anyone’s guess. But as long as people are mature enough to discern the difference between reality and virtual reality, these new realistic games should be fun ways of getting out of your own life, if not for a little while, and living another. And what could be wrong with that?

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