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Things That Are Harder In Games Than In Real Life

We play video games to escape reality and do the unthinkable: fling fire from our hands, fly through the skies, lead armies, slay gods. But there are some things about our world that almost never translate well into a video game. Sure, your character can hold a sword the size of LeBron James one-handed. That's fine. But tiptoeing? Impossible. And you'd better not try to swim, because this might be one of those games where water equals instant death. No, it's these little nuances that keep you from being fully, 100 percent in sync and in tune with the game. Maybe with the rise of virtual reality, we'll start to get a better handle on some of this, but until then, here are some of the most ridiculous things that are always harder to do in video games than they are in real life.


Video games have a weird relationship with water. Some take place entirely submerged in it; some have levels based around a water theme that are so notoriously difficult you still hear about them decades later. And other games just treat water like literal poison—you touch it, you die. Adios. The early 3D Grand Theft Auto games were horrible in this regard. You'd veer around a corner, lose control, topple over into the slightest little knee-high pond, and then? Your hardened badass of a character dies. Never mind that he'd just shot a rocket-propelled grenade at a police officer while cackling—he's dead at the hands of Poseidon. Utterly lame. Later games fixed this, but even today, you've got to watch out for the water.

Driving a car safely

Now, we're not talking about some Gran Turismo-type ultimate simulation game here, though to a certain extent it still applies. No, this is for your more madcap games with vehicles—your Grand Theft Autos, your Saints Rows, your LA Noires. Games where cars are meant to get you from point A to point B, but too often end up being used as flaming weaponized helltanks barreling into traffic, people, off cliffs, and up hills at high speeds, until you either die or start a gunfight. But you were trying so hard to play nice!


On the other end of the spectrum, nothing makes you feel clumsier than skulking around in a game, trying to be stealthy and failing miserably. (The only—onlygames that gets this right are the Metal Gear Solid series. Perfecto.) No, for the most part, it's when you need to be quietest, tailing your quarry, that you accidentally press the button that drops a grenade, or you tilt the stick just a bit too far and dead-on sprint into the man you were supposed to be shadowing. And then you die in a hail of a thousand bullets. Video games are weird this way—it's really, really hard to go slow and be precise when you need to. Video games make you want to mash buttons, move fast, be kinetic. Threading a needle isn't as much fun. So cut it with the stealth sections, developers. They're slow, they're boring, and we're really, really bad at them.

Navigating the world

Before you lays a dead white oak tree, half your height and scraggly. You could vault over it easily. Your character, a blue-pigmented ogre with the strength of a gorilla AND a scroll that casts Levitation, cannot. Because this downed tree is a game barrier, no more passable than a brick freaking wall. It's one of the quiet give-and-takes between level design and free movement—how to make an environment feel populated and alive, but still contained. In, say, Left 4 Dead, the thought might occur to you, "Hey, let's push this truck against the wall, then stack these crates and squeeze out this small space behind the pipes." But accomplishing that plan is a no-go if there's no corresponding button press to do it for you. Maybe you can't even interact with those crates, and you're doomed to be left humping them desperately while the zombies stream in through the open door. Thinking spatially in video games doesn't always help. You've got to know the limits of the game.

Keeping your friends alive

This is probably the biggest bugaboo. Think about your best friends. Fine folk, all. What wouldn't you do for them? You'd help them move, you'd attend their weddings—hell, in the right circumstances, you may even lay down your real life for them. But in a video game? F— them. You don't even have to be competing. A stray bullet hits your helmet in a friendly fire situation? Kill your roommate with a machine gun. Do you want to adhere to a plan that keeps everyone alive? Screw that. LEEROY JENKINS. And thus, one of the great pleasures of the video game: to truly become a different person, in a world that works differently, with morals in the toilet, and a grin on every face.