It has to be realistic to the world it's set in. Fallout 3 is a game full of unrealistic ideas like mutants, ghouls, giant scorpions and so on. But the game is still realistic because there's a sense that the world behaves how you think it should. Unless you count the glitches. It immerses you into the setting, and you become engrossed in the atmosphere. When a game sets up these unspoken rules of how things should act in it's world, then breaks these rules, you lose that sense of realism and end up somewhere deep in the uncanny valley. That can still work in some cases, like horror games where the game is deliberately messing with you.
In regards to the argument of whether we should be pushing for hyper-realistic graphics and animations, I don't feel it's necessary. If you've been playing games for a while, you can overlook certain flaws in animation and graphics, and still get sucked into the world of a game. Maybe in your Forza's and Battlefield's you want it to look as real as possible, but I'd prefer a larger push in weird and new aesthetics than hyper-realism.
Depends on what you mean by "realistic".
I'm all for more believable animations and more detailed environments, but I've never been a fan of applying realism for realism's sake. Now, applying it for the sake of gameplay, sure. Apparently ARMA does a fine job of making realistic gameplay more fun. But I think it's pretty limiting to strive for being purely realistic. I mean, you've got this medium that allows you to participate in practically any sort of fantasy, from jetpacks to double jumps to unlimited parachutes to being able to hold an entire arsenal in your back pocket and run at 90 miles per hour (hint hint, next generation shooters)? Or you could jump into a world like that of Skyrim, where you can run around fantasy land and essentially be a god, or Mass Effect which features an entire race of horny bisexuals? And some people want to slog through something that tries and fails to copy real life? Why?
The graphics keep getting technically better, but honestly I haven't really given a shit since PS2/GCN/Xbox era. I prefer more stylized art over a technically superior, more realistic style at least when it applies to the overall look of a game.
Really the only thing I care about when it comes to new hardware is how much more they can fit in a game.
Adding "depends on the game" devalues the poll, in my respectful opinion, because almost everyone will choose that.
I was gonna pick it, but then I pretended it's not there, and I went with realistic. What matters to me is my gameplay capabilities, not the graphics, realism or any other jazz, but I enjoy it more when things are grounded in realism and resemble real life weapons, interactions and physics.
I can jump on walls or turn into a magic fruit and enjoy it, but when I feel like a real person walking about a real location, it feels SEXY.
Now, mind you, it doesn't have to be in 100% the real world. STALKER has mutants and magic belt artifacts, but it still very real when you play it, and that's one of the reasons I love it.
I like realstic simulations set against over-the-top worlds and rulesets. Examples: GTA IV and Battlefield Bad Company 2. The more realistic something feels, the more impact it will have, when it goes larger-than-life.
For example a Burnout or Need for Speed game will profit immensely from extensive physics simulations. However the intentended result of those simulations is not to depict how reality is, but how reality should be in the context of driving cars fastly and furiously.
I guess I favor realistically simulated absurdity.
Depends on the game, but I tend to enjoy more outlandish styles over realism. If I wanted to stare at realistic trees, I'd just go outside and stare at a tree. Fuck that. Some games are definitely better suited to a realistic style though. ARMA, for instance.
Actually, now that I think about it, a cartoonish looking ARMA that still retained all the simulation-y systems would kind of be the shit!
Can I vote for a mix of both?
The way I see it is, I wish Pikmin 3 actually looked like this:
Instead of this:
That top picture is "realism" to me. It looks real. Real in the sense that it looks like it's made out of real materials with real texture and real lighting all over it. It's dense and detailed. That lime looks good enough to eat. It looks natural. That monster looks like plastic, but it looks like actual plastic, like I could compare it to a physical toy of the creature and it would look identical.
I think it looks so good and shows that looking "realistic" doesn't mean that it has to look drab, boring, or even of this world. It can still be surreal and cartoon-like. I want more of that kind of realism, whatever you want to call it.