Social Realism in Gaming

In his essay, “Social Realism in Gaming,” Galloway reflects on the possibility video games containing elements of social realism.  Galloway indicates that there is a difference between realism and realistic-ness.  Galloway states that realistic-ness is “a yardstick held up to representation,” while realism is a “surgical examination of matters society.”  Galloway goes onto argue that “game studies should follow these same arguments and turn not to a theory of realism in gaming as mere realistic representation, but define realist games as those games that reflect critically on the minutia of everyday life, replete as it is with struggle, personal drama and injustice.”  While I agree with this framework I do wonder what Galloway would say today.  Galloway wrote this article in 2003 when video game graphics were poor compared to today.  Today there is virtual reality and games that almost look life-like because the graphics are so good.  Today there are games that tackle realism in new and confusing ways.  Do games such as Mafia 3, which tackles the issue of race in 1960’s New Orleans.  The main character is a black and he is part of a street gang that comes into conflict with the established Italian mafia.  This game combines both realistic and realist elements in ways that I do not believe Galloway would have come across in 2003.  The main character has a love storyline, a family storyline, and other aspects of his life are brought in to really round out the character, but also forces the player to experience the “minutia of everyday life,” through the eyes of the character.  While they may be made up of pixels, as Galloway states, the game’s creators make it feel pretty real, in both ways.

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