The day before I wrote this article, I happened to see a video review of an old computer game called “Jones In The Fast Lane”. This was a stylised electronic board game from the 1990s that is supposed to be based on real life.
Despite the game’s quirky humour, shortcuts, 1990s stuff, game mechanics etc.. it was obviously meant to be at least slightly “realistic”. And, my god, what a boring game it seemed to be!
This, naturally, made me think about the subject of realism in art, stories, comics, computer games, movies, TV shows etc… and why it should be avoided like the plague!
For all of the interesting things that happen (and have happened) in the world – 99% of the time, life is boring. It’s mundane. It’s repetitive. It’s dreary. If it wasn’t, then the world wouldn’t contain more novels than any one person could ever hope to read, more movies than one person could ever hope to watch, more games than any one person could hope to play etc…
I mean, there’s a good reason why even traditional soap operas have to add lots of ridiculously melodramatic storylines, arguments etc.. to their depictions of everyday life. If they were a lot more “realistic”, then they’d be ten times more dull than they already are.
Even with this, their storylines seem annoyingly dreary, trite, mawkish, tawdry, depressing, melodramatic etc… when compared to technically similar TV shows that are set in more imaginative locations ( “Game Of Thrones” springs to mind for starters).
When a TV show puts the effort into creating an entirely imaginary fictional world that is interesting because it’s different from the real world, then it can get away with “soap opera”-like storylines because of all of the extra “unrealistic” imaginative stuff that clearly says “this is a story! It isn’t even pretending to be like real life!”
Even comics and cartoons that are set in “realistic” locations are often interesting because of their unrealistic elements – their stylised art, their exaggerated characters etc…
Whether you’re part of the audience or the person creating it – stories, art, games etc… are timelessly interesting because they allow us to either escape from reality or to reshape it in some way or another.
This is best summed up by an awesome quote from a short story called “An Extra Smidgen Of Eternity” by Robert Rodi (which can be found in an anthology called “The Sandman: Book Of Dreams” Edited by Neil Gaiman and Ed Kramer).
Although the story itself will probably make you cry, and the ending won’t make complete sense unless you’ve read the fifth “Sandman” comic, it contains one of the best quotes about creativity and imagination that I’ve ever read.
The quote is: “Stories are hope. They take you out of yourself for a bit, and when you get dropped back in, you’re different – you’re stronger, you’ve seen more, you’ve felt more. Stories are like spiritual currency.”
All forms of creativity allow us to either give our own imaginations physical form, or to see the contents of other people’s imaginations. Imagination is one of the many things that stops the mundane repetitiveness of everyday life from becoming emptily depressing.
Merely copying reality doesn’t take much imagination and it doesn’t really give that much to the imaginations of the audience. So, yes, “realism” is totally and utterly pointless!
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂