Craig Sawyer On Gaming Realism
Today I have the distinct privilege of sitting down with Craig Sawyer, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL, DEVGRU operator, and on-camera expert for the History Channel series Top Shot.
Craig was diligent at every point in our discussion to ensure he maintained operational security regarding his former unit, equipment, and tactics, which the Tom's Hardware editorial department respects. We did not pursue questions that would violate OPSEC or Craig’s oath to his unit and teammates.
Everyone here at Tom's Hardware enjoys PC gaming. But our opinions diverge when it comes to the degree of realism we want to experience in our favorite title. With Call of Duty: Black Ops II now available (and notoriously skewed toward a fast-paced arcade style), we wanted to get feedback on realism in gaming from someone with actual combat experience.
Craig is already involved in consulting for film, drawing from his extensive experience in the military, providing security for U.S. dignitaries, and training other professionals. As a personal fan of a more realistic gaming experience, I’d like to see ISVs work with Tier 1 soldiers like Craig to make their titles more visceral.
Tom's Hardware: To that end, Craig, you probably already know that game developers employ different degrees of realism in their titles. Even as the detail and texture quality enabled by their engines improves universally, franchises like Call of Duty tend to encourage running-and-gunning. I found myself moving through Battlefield 3 at a much more deliberate pace, picking up weapons based on the mission at hand. Where along that scale would you like to see shooters go?
Craig Sawyer: Hey, happy to contribute! This will definitely be a kick! As far as realism and gaming style go, I like to consider the objective at hand: "What's the game for?"
If it's a realistic training environment we're after, then of course I'd be looking for accurate weapons representations and appropriate tactical judgments for each mission or scenario. If we're instead looking for sheer fun factor, which is more often the case, then realism necessarily falls to second priority in favor of the excitement and satisfaction of playing the game with wild (even artificial) variables.
So, do you want to train to be a real operator, or do you just wanna get your blast on and shoot stuff up? Both goals are legitimate in their own right. Where you fall on the scale depends on what you want from the game.
Tom's Hardware: The lack of a fatigue factor, even in fairly realistic first-person shooters, has always bothered me. Most titles allow you to sprint briefly before slowing down to a run, but you’re able to shoot, jump, and then, seconds later, sprint again. Is this something that needs to change in the next generation of games, or would "the real thing" be a total turn-off for a gamer? Realistically, after a dead sprint, can you hit a human-size target at 100 yards?
Craig Sawyer: I can totally understand why developers allow so much sprinting in their games. After all, if you're forced to heed the real limitations of our bodies, the game experience slows down dramatically. Gamers like speed. So, as a result, slowing to more realistic movements would, in many cases, make the game less exciting. We have to consider the fact that the gamer is in no mortal danger. His life and the lives of his teammates are not in actual jeopardy. Without that genuine danger, game creators need to ramp up the speed, keeping the dynamics big and fascinating to outweigh the loss of sensory input of a real life-and-death situation.
Can I hit a target at 100 yards after a dead sprint? Yes! That took a lot of time and effort to develop, and it's not something that all operators are equally good at in real life. So, I wouldn't expect each operator in a game to pull that off each time, either.