Have you ever wished you could fly by yourself like Superman or have some other ability that’s beyond the human reach? I’m sure we all have something like that. Fiction, of course, has always offered us a way to live those fantasies to some extent, but out of all media games really is the only one where we are able to take control of that power of flight. Well, you can always argue that base jumping and the like gives you the feeling, and I wouldn’t argue against that, but that’s more controlled falling than actual flying.
Games stray just enough from the traditional medias with its interactivity that it allows everything to be possible and be enacted by the player. In Super Mario Bros. we have a cartoon fantasy land, where we can travel through pipes. Sure, we can find a big damn pipe and walk through it, but we won’t find an underground cavern filled with shiny golden coins floating in the air. We don’t question this, because it’s comical and functions well within the setting and the logic it uses.
Similarly, Metal Gear Rising has cartoon logic to itself too. Same goes to the rest of the Metal Gear franchise, but in different degrees in different games. Some are worse in this regard, as it’s almost like they build a cohesive semi-realistic world and then just drop the ball with nanomachines or overtech robots or functioning artificial intelligence in the 70’s. Anyway, in MGR you are able to cut pretty much anything and anyone, because the logic allows a cyborg ninja to have an infinitely sharp blade. The explanation doesn’t make any sense, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we can go our way out and slice that big hunk of junk into hundreds of itty bitty slices.
Call of Duty, the first one, on the other hand is grounded. While it has some elements that are necessary because it is a computer game after all. Nevertheless, there was a lot of research done to stick with the realism of the war. Hardcore fans and historians of course will notice all the mistakes and errors in the maps, and so on, but these are mistakes in the world, not in the more realistic logic the game employs. You can’t travel through pipes, you can’t slice everything you see, but you need to conserve your ammo and advance with care.
Of course, we have games that wholly just ignore most what things are considered realistic and go town with it.
The recent Transformers Devastation trailers and gameplay footage looks like your standard Platinum game, which may can be a positive or a negative thing depending whether or not you like their games. The game has things that simply are there that I didn’t consciously notice, because TFD functions wholly on cartoon logic. Things like Autobots accelerating in air for a pursue attack and Optimus Prime’s trailer suddenly appearing when he does a burnout in the air and smashes immediate enemies with it.
Cartoon physics and logic is more often than not fun to employ in a game, because they allow both the developer and player to do things they couldn’t before. It’s a more honest way to break the laws of real world in fiction than Star Trek Voyager’s endless streams of technobabble about absolutely nothing. Hell, Voyager’s technobabble was so bad that they contradicted each other and the most basic science wrong more than once. It’s not even entertaining. You can argue that the other at least tries to explain with the in-world logic what’s going on rather than taking the easy way out with cartoon logic and science, and I would agree with this if it wasn’t fucked up. Star Trek, the original series, tried to keep itself somewhat grounded and did screw up more than once, but there’s something that a show like Star Trek has to remember; it’s television. It needs to be well scripted and it needs to deliver the information. While TOS managed to make threatening scenes and their technobabble work as a device and convey how screwed they are, Voyager’s same scenes are incomprehensible babble about absolutely nothing. While games have similar scenes as well, they’re more about the action of the player rather than the passive watching of a scene.
Sometimes, I sit down with Call of Duty and play it for few hours because it’s a legitimately good game. I want something that’s a bit more tied down. Sometimes I just launch Doom or pop in Nuts & Milk for the opposite reasons.
Both extremes are not anything to scoff at, and more often than not it’s best to employ both approaches when creating a fictional world at least to some extent. Of course, the logics may colour the works to some extent with realistic approach having a more serious tone and comical ones with more gleam in their eyes, if we’re allowed to generalise a bit. When speaking of games, perhaps the visual striking difference between Transformers War for Cybertron and the upcoming Devastation gives off a good example what sort of difference the approach on the logic can make. One is dark, gritty and portrays lumbering robots with a raw feeling, the other is filled with colours, slightly tongue in cheek and absolutely honest about the fun it wants you to have. Some would say the other is more adolescent than the other, but that’s something that’s a bit more on the side of personal opinions than anything else. After all, it’s all dependent on how the work itself is.