"It feels real to me": Transgressive realism in This War of Mine
Chapter, Peer reviewed
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Like movies and literature, games can present thought-provoking, uncomfortable scenarios that feel realistic to the audience. The pain and tragedy portrayed on screen and through gameplay seem genuine and affect the player. Taking a cue from this similarity, in this chapter I explore This War of Mine (11 Bit Studios 2014) through autoethnography as an example of realism in computer games. I do not consider this realism in terms of graphical or mechanical realism but rather as an accurate representation of a situation that is far removed from most players’ range of experiences. I build on ideas of realism, social realism, and transgression and discuss how they relate to this game before I try to shed light on the gameplay experience. Toward the very end of the chapter, I develop the idea of transgressive realism as a way of describing game experiences that feel real through their ability to disturb or be uncomfortable. Thus, they are transgressive because they are able to make us reflect in ways that entertainment media normally do not. Transgressive realism thus begs the question: Does playing a game that makes one feel uncomfortable or distressed enhance the game’s sense of realism?