This was the question I was asking myself as I watched the demos from Quantic Dream and Nvidia. They both talk like it’s some pinnacle of achievement to be able to fool people into not realizing it’s a fake computer generated effigy of humankind. Looking at the demonstrations, we still aren’t there yet, regardless of how positive they are being. They talk like it is a goal though, and people clap and cheer at every step the industry takes along that path.

My question was simply, do we really want this? do we really want simulated humans to look indistinguishable from real humans? Have you considered on average, how many times you have killed or witnessed a fake human dying in your video games this week? What about this year? we can deal with it now because for most of us, we can disconnect reality with a video game impression of such a reality. What happens when we can’t though?

When you blow someones head off in a video game and you get some ridiculous brain explosion full of gore and blood, it’s not realistic, it’s just entertaining. With the advancements of virtual reality headsets and better and better computer graphics I worry we are forgetting the primary reason we enjoy this entertainment, because subconsciously, we know it isn’t real. What happens when we can’t tell anymore? How many real people have you witnessed being violently murdered? would that be fun to experience?

We already feel emotional attachment to characters in books, animated movies and videogames sometimes, they aren’t always real but that doesn’t stop our imagination from making that leap of empathizing with them. What is key here is the use of our imagination, we choose to believe in what is obviously not real, but we know this, we just exercise our suspension of disbelief. When we no longer need to do this, is that entertainment we want?

Of course there are other advantages to graphical advancements in technology, making worlds more believable, immersing you within them is an example. Feeling like you are there and that it does exist are definitely worthy goals, I just worry the more we strive to create fake, believable human beings the more we lose the argument that video game violence isn’t the cause of real violence. One day, far in the future, I envision a defense from a virtual reality gamer in a court somewhere in the world, that they thought they were playing a video game, when they murdered somebody.

I love exploding heads, running people over and decapitating fools, but I can only enjoy it because deep down, they never looked real anyway. I may be old and grey by the time we get there, I may even be long gone from this world, but I think it’s a question more people should be asking, how real do you want your entertainment to be?