Bleary-eyed as a flu victim can be, I recently found interest in how Radosh takes compelling issue with James Suroweicki's Slate piece about the dangers of videogame graphics that skew too real, and I'm with him. But I did write a piece for The New Republic over a year ago, pegged to the release of the first Atari Flashback, that made a few claims fairly pertinent to the argument. My take?
[A]s game-developers create more sophisticated real-life-like titles, it becomes harder and harder to simply "play" a game. What emerges instead is a highly corrupting and advanced form of intriguingly retro Dungeons-and-Dragons role-playing: The game, which on the surface practically begs for you to play with a buddy in your living room, is so complex, so enveloping, so escapist, you become a part of it yourself, and hence lose any ability to socialize honestly. In the latest version of John Madden's football game, for example, there are so many mind-numbing plays and customizations for you as coach to choose from, you may as well be playing yourself (in fact one option is to simply call a play and let the thing unfold in front of your eyes without manipulating the control pad). Faced with the broad cultural proliferation of such games, network football telecasts have even begun to emulate a 2004 video game's camera perspectives, creating for TV-watchers a violent reality flip-flop and hence coloring real sport trivial and fake (if not oppressively real) on the tube.
Dumbed down, have you not noticed how all football telecasts look like Madden these days? For that reason, I'm down with Radosh on how zombie-ish the players look in Top Spin tennis. It's when the characters don't look zombie-ish but realish that we have a problem. Interpretations of reality are always fun things to escape the real with, true attempts to reproduce reality are what give me the heebie-jeebies.