Acceptable Breaks from Reality
aka: Acceptable Break From Reality
"In this kind of story the pseudo-scientific apparatus should be taken simply as a machine in the sense which the word bore for the Neo-classical critics. The most superficial appearance of plausibility—the merest sop to our critical intellect—will do."A Willing Suspension of Disbelief is a must for almost any work of fiction. There are certain elements of story or gameplay where realism would simply make a work tedious, difficult, or confusing for the audience. Thus there are ways in which works will be blatantly, unabashedly unrealistic, and nobody really minds. See the Rule of Index. It's possible for these to become unacceptable, when the abstraction gets in the way of enjoying the work. On the flip side, it's possible to get so accustomed to a particular break from reality that people stop realizing it's unrealistic. Of course, different people have different tolerances for the balance between "abstraction" and "simulation," which means that some media creators make conscious and deliberate efforts to avert at least some of these tropes. Those sorts of things, however, tend to cater toward a rather niche crowd. Even then, there's still a small measure of abstraction simply to prevent things from getting too tedious. Compare Necessary Weasel. Note that despite the title, these tropes are about realism, not reality. Some of them may be Truth in Television. (Reality Is Unrealistic, after all.)
—C. S. Lewis, On Science Fiction.
Forms of Acceptable Breaks From Reality include:
- Acoustic License
Because, really, five exchanges of "what did you say?" in between every interesting line of dialogue would just get boring.
- Aliens Speaking English
And with perfect American/English/Australian/wherever-the-work-was-made accents too!
- Already Undone for You
Someone already got through this trap-laden dungeon to wait for you, so why are the traps still there? It wouldn't be fun, otherwise!
- All in a Row
Because they'd get stuck behind a table sometimes. It'd be annoying depending on whether or not you're teleported to a battlefield or fight enemies wherever you stand and your character's stuck.
- All Swords Are the Same
Because designing a wide variety of weapons, as well as unique battle animations for every one of them, is hard.
- Anti-Frustration Features
They'd never make sense storywise, they're just to keep the player from getting frustrated.
- Arbitrary Gun Power
Video game guns damage your life bar, not your organs. Accurate simulations of the physics and biology of bullet wounds are prohibitive in terms of development time, or simply don't fit in with Competitive Balance, so the effects of bullet wounds are abstracted.
- Arbitrary Headcount Limit
Arbitrary requirement that stops you from having too many characters in a party or unit. Truth in Television with regard to close quarters and stealth missions.
- Arbitrary Maximum Range
In real-world physics, there's no "maximum range" for weapons in space - but that wouldn't make for gripping space battles and if it's video games, system performance will take a big hit if it has to track that many objects that aren't in the playfield anymore.
- Arbitrary Minimum Range
Some weapons may have a minimum range, and it is a lot less effective or unable to fire at targets at all before this distance. Having such a powerful weapon without a minimum range can be a Game Breaker, since it would have little weakness. Truth in Television for any ranged weapon, or any melee weapon known for its size.
- Artificial Gravity
Virtually all Sci-Fi starships have some form of artificial gravity.
- Art Major Biology
No, the work doesn't follow actual biology, but if it did, we wouldn't have a very good story.
- Artistic License – Physics
No, the work doesn't follow actual physics, but if it did, we wouldn't have a very good story.
- Artistic License – Law
To the extent that litigation is dramatic, almost none of it happens in the courtroom. But the way it actually plays out, i.e. trading written motions over several months, doesn't exactly make for gripping television.
- Artistic License – Martial Arts
Fight scenes are usually very dramatic, adding to a good story. Slow, concentrated movements don't make for exciting scenes.
- Authority Equals Asskicking
The higher a character is in his hierarchy, the better he is in a fight.
- Automaton Horses
Horses never have to be watered, fed, or rested in video games, and often not in other media.
- Bag of Sharing
Everyone in the team can access the same inventory even when they're apart, because forcing the player to micromanage the inventory would be too obnoxious.
- Back Seats are Just for Show
Cars with 2 doors but four seats can't be used to carry more than two people.
- Benevolent Architecture
Architecture and geography seem to be designed for that genre and your character's abilities.
- Big Damn Fire Exit
There will always be an escape route. If the building's on fire (or even exploding) there will be one non-burning pathway. If there isn't, it will conspire to collapse in such a way as to create one as a character approaches a dead end.
- Blatant Item Placement
What's a medkit doing here anyway? Well, the wounded player won't be complaining.
- Bottomless Bladder
Fictional characters don't have to do mundane things like use the restroom unless the story dictates it.
- Bottomless Magazines
You get unlimited shots, because who wants to stop the action to reload?
- Bulletproof Human Shield
Having the Action Hero survive gunfire by hiding behind a Mook might not be realistic, but it's definitely cool.
A maximum number a game puts on numeric amounts, ranging from statistics to score to damage points.
- Chaos Architecture
When geography of countries and buildings in sequels don't resemble their previous incarnations.
- Command And Conquer Economy
A game in which nothing gets built unless the player orders it to.
- Commonplace Rare
An object that either should be easily affordable or else found in everyone's home becomes a priceless artifact acquired at great pains.
- Competitive Balance
In multiplayer games, ensuring that each character is balanced enough to be used somewhat effectively against every other character.
- Concealment Equals Cover
Characters can hide behind anything and be protected from projectiles even if they could, in theory, penetrate whatever is being used for cover.
- Conspicuously Selective Perception
In stealth games, enemies will be very attentive to your noises, but not to any others.
- Continue Your Mission, Dammit!
Avoids a Timed Mission by only having everyone act like you're in a hurry.
- Convection Schmonvection
A character can get as close as they want to lava - as long as they aren't actually touching it, they'll be perfectly fine. Not to mention the game would be too hard if you had to fight off the invisible heat as well as the enemies.
- Convenient Weakness Placement
The one thing that can kill a baddie is smack in the middle of his lair and/or fighting arena.
Powers and abilities have arbitrary, fixed recovery periods that are usually independent of each other.
- Critical Encumbrance Failure
You're perfectly fine with 87 pounds of weight, but add one more item and you can't move.
- Critical Existence Failure
You're perfectly fine with 1 Hit Point left or otherwise being just one step away from death, but lose the last bit of health and you die instantly.
- Crosshair Aware
A character in a video game can see when/where an attack is going to hit, because it would be frustrating if they couldn't.
- Door to Before
A door that leads you straight back to the beginning of a dungeon so you don't have to walk out the long way.
- Easy Communication
When you give orders to your troops, they're transmitted instantly to every soldier.
- Easy Logistics
You don't need to worry about feeding your troops or keeping up supplies - that all happens automatically.
- An Economy Is You
All stores in a videogame city are centered around selling things you in particular will need.
- Enough to Go Around
In MMORPGs, a quest item is supposedly unique, but there's one for every player of the game in order to prevent Loot Drama.
- Eternal Equinox
Day and night are always the exact same length, regardless of the season or the latitude.
- Eternally Pearly-White Teeth
Actors generally have healthy teeth, even when the medieval characters they're portraying wouldn't. But hey, our heroes have to look good.
- Event Driven Clock
In-universe time and calendar is based around the hero's actions and progress rather than a real-time clock.
- Every Bullet Is a Tracer
You'll be able to see the path of bullets to assist in aiming or following the action.
- Everything Fades
Things will vanish or otherwise no longer be seen when a character is done with them (killed enemies, broken chairs, etc.).
- Explosions in Space
Should be impossible, but...
- Firewood Resources
In Real-Time Strategy games, wood is always shown in bundles.
- Flash of Pain
Enemies flash colors when hit.
- Floating Platforms
Because it's much easier than building proper structural supports.
- Fourth Wall
One many people gloss over, but still there. In any play, characters will always face each other so both faces can be seen from one particular wall. And though there are assorted important doors, windows, etc. on all three walls, that fourth one never has any important features, despite the fact that everyone keeps standing facing it.
- Free-Range Children
Children have more freedom in the work than in real life.
- Friendly Fireproof
The protagonist's attacks will never damage their friends and enemy attacks won't damage their allies unless done specifically that way.
- Gameplay-Guided Amnesia
Because the character of a game knows things the player doesn't, sometimes the character gets amnesia to excuse the explanation to the player.
- Gateless Ghetto
You're dumped in a small part of a city walled off from the rest of it, so you can't explore what hasn't been programmed.
- Global Currency
The same money is used across the entire world (spanning multiples countries and/or times).
- Gold–Silver–Copper Standard
Because who honestly wants to realistically calculate relative market values and exchange rates?
- Guns in Church
Nobody bats an eye if you bring your weapons to a private audience with an important person. If they do, it's likely a trap.
- Hard Head
Dying from a head injury would make characters too vulnerable. When it's done in a video game or movie that has a vulnerable protagonist, then that's great.
- Heal Thyself
When you pick up a medkit or use a potion, you get healed instantly.
- Hollywood Darkness
When you wanna see that it's dark, but the audience still wants to see in the dark.
- Hollywood Hacking
Because real hacking is actually quite boring, would become worthless after the technology is exposed, plus would be a bit boring in a video game.
- Hollywood Psych
Because the fact that the main character would end up too damaged and insane to ever live a normal life after the events of the average video game isn't a very happy ending.
- Hyperactive Metabolism
Food and sleep will instantly heal you.
- Hyperspace Arsenal
In games, you can carry an absolutely enormous amount of stuff, though where it's actually kept is a mystery.
- Improbable Power Discrepancy
Enemies in RPGs are given statistics based on how powerful you're expected to be at that point, not how strong that enemy would be based on common sense.
- Inexplicable Treasure Chests
Where did they come from? Who put them there? Why does nobody else ever open them?
- Inexplicably Preserved Dungeon Meat
Without them, those epic dungeon crawls tend to peter out after a few days.
- Infinite Flashlight
A flashlight which never runs out of batteries or needs to be recharged, except if the plot demands or if it's a gameplay mechanic.
- Informed Equipment
Game characters' equipment won't show up visually.
- Insecurity Camera
You can easily just blow up security cameras or otherwise make them useless and nobody will be alarmed by it. Unless there's a Dangerously Genre Savvy supervisor present, at best it'll be dismissed as a temporary glitch to not worry about.
- Instant 180 Degree Turn
Characters can turn around in an instant.
- Instant Home Delivery
When you buy something, it shows up instantly or at least much faster than in Real Life.
- Instant Sedation
Because we don't have 15 minutes of valuable airtime to waste watching a tranquilizer go into effect.
- Instant-Win Condition
When you clear a game stage, all the troubles, death traps, remaining enemies etc. are completely ignored, because you won.
- In-Vehicle Invulnerability
Driver doesn't die or get injured when a car crashes without explosion.
- Iron Butt Monkey
No matter how much damage he suffers, he just keeps coming back!
- Just Add Water
Items can generally be created by just sticking two or three things together.
- Justified Extra Lives
An in-game explanation for why you can keep coming back from the dead.
- Justified Tutorial
A tutorial that makes sense in context.
- The Kids Are American
A work takes place in a foreign land and the children have American accents.
- Kid Hero
In reality, allowing or actively putting a child in any kind of danger is a big no-no. But kid readers want to see people like them be heroic.
- Lazy Backup
Yes, the other fifteen members of the party could carry on the fight should the frontline trio fall, but that would make the battle too easy.
- Law of Cartographical Elegance
Land masses will never cross the edge of a world map.
- Leaked Experience
When fighting in RPGs, characters not in the active party will get some percentage of the experience that the active party gets to prevent Can't Catch Up situations.
- Limited Sound Effects
Because not all programmers go the extra mile of having a sound-effect ensemble.
- Loud of War
Blasting loud music at someone won't cause hearing damage.
- Mercy Invincibility
Because being hit again and again without being able to retaliate is a bit unfair.
- Money Spider
A more believable scenario would be getting rewarded for killing the monsters, but it'd simply take too long to go back to the person and get rewarded every time you did it.
- Muzzle Flashlight
You have no flashlight, so just start firing your weapons and follow the muzzle flash!
- Never Recycle a Building
Don't worry about zoning laws, the abandoned building is just waiting for you to use it.
- News Travels Fast
As soon as something important happens in the plot, everyone in the world will know about it.
- No Cure for Evil
A lot of enemies can't heal, especially since this would get very annoying for some particularly hard enemies.
- No Periods, Period
You just don't go there.
- No Recycling
In strategy games, you can't scavenge debris for usable materials.
- Nobody Poops
At least not onscreen.
- Nominal Importance
Only people that are relevant to the plot or a sidequest will be blessed with names. Everyone else will be nameless or be referred to with generic or descriptive titles, because the writers can't be expected to think of names for everyone.
- No Arc in Archery
For balance purposes, mostly.
- No Stat Atrophy
Once you raise a stat, it 'll never go down again.
- Now, Where Was I Going Again?
The ways to combat this are acceptable because not knowing what to do next in a video game is frustrating, time-wasting, and not fun.
- NPC Amnesia
Because picking a wrong choice in a Dialogue Tree could otherwise result in the game becoming Unwinnable, and programming alternate ways to proceed can be tedious.
- Olympic Swimmer
If (or once) you know how to swim, you'll do it perfectly and for as long as you like.
- Olympus Mons
The game allows the player to capture and control creatures that would seem odd when commanded preteen hero, because not allowing it wouldn't be any fun at all.
- One Bullet Clips
In a game, if you fire one bullet and reload, you'll be shown reloading a full magazine, but will still only have reloaded one bullet and not lost any others doing so.
- One Dose Fits All
Much like with Instant Sedation above, it would probably be irritating more than anything if a character had to calculate the dosage of tranquillizer, poison etc. per person before administering it, especially in video games.
- One Size Fits All
Clothing and armor can be worn by anyone, regardless of its source or the wearer's size or gender.
- One True Faith
A work of Science Fiction or Fantasy has only one religion (The Church) in it; furthermore, there are never any factions of it or different interpretations of its belief.
- Optional Traffic Laws
Drivers can safely ignore all the rules of the road, often with no more consequence than at worst, a bystander making a rude hand gesture and/or being profane towards the driver.
- Painfully Slow Projectile
Bullets are slow enough to dodge. Especially common in Platform and Shoot 'em Up games.
- Party in My Pocket
Sometimes from a developmental point of view, showing all 3-8+ party members on-screen at all times means issues such as them taking up a lot of space in the area and having their pathfinding programmed without Offscreen Teleportation.
- Pamphlet Shelf
Whenever you see a bookshelf, there'll never be more than one book (and often one line) that you can read; so that you don't spend an hour looking for something relevant.
- Plot-Powered Stamina
You don't have to break off the action to rest, eat, or sleep in-world, though your characters may abruptly decide to do so in a cutscene.
- Power Equals Rarity
The more powerful an item, monster, or ability/spell is, the harder it is to find.
- Puzzle Reset
In a game, if you exit and re-enter the room, any puzzle will reset itself.
- Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic
Having everyone speak like they would in real life would just make a reader think that they never bothered to check their work or just make it hard for them to understand what's being said.
- The Reveal
Not only for other characters to catch up to the plot, but also so the viewer's on the same page as the characters. Sometimes literally.
- Reward from Nowhere
A seemingly arbitrary prize for an in-universe action with no explanation as to who gives out the prize or why.
- Ribcage Stomach
The inside of a creature's stomach looks like the inside of the entire creature lacking organs.
- Ridiculously Fast Construction
All buildings can be produced and military units trained in a ridiculously short amount of time.
- "Risk"-Style Map
A war or other contest involves struggles for regions which are wholly in the possession of one side or the other are treated as "spaces" for movement and can't be divided up in any way.
- Risking The King
The people in charge take direct action when other people are available to do it for them.
- Rock Star Parking
Because no one wants to put the story on hold for half an hour while the characters are looking for a spot.
- Rule of Cool
Yeah, it's totally unrealistic, but man, it looks awesome.
- Rule of Funny
Some stuff that's Played for Laughs is funny only because it's not real, namely Video Game Cruelty Potential or Comedic Sociopathy. In Real Life? Not so much.
- Selective Gravity
Gravity is only applied to some things.
- Short-Range Long-Range Weapon
The inability of a long-range weapon user to use said weapon at long range.
- The Simple Life Is Simple
The simple life is indeed simplified for games where farming is (one of) the objective(s); the complexities of real-life farming would take the fun out of it otherwise.
- Skill Point Reset
A way to completely forget everything you knew about your current job and learn everything from scratch again.
- Soft Water
A fall from any height at all can be rendered harmless or merely incapacitating if, at the end of the fall, the character meets a body of water.
- Sole Entertainment Option
In the entire in-work world, there's only one kind of entertainment or only one city where you can find it.
- Sound-Coded for Your Convenience
In video games, many things make sounds more distinct from each other than in real life so the player can more easily tell what's happening just by hearing them.
- Space Compression
Where an environment is blatantly not to scale so you don't spend an entire day just walking to the next city.
- Statistically Speaking
In Video Games, no matter how high your strength, speed, etc. goes, you still won't be able to, for example, lift that tree in your way.
- Steel Ear Drums
Nobody is ever bothered by extremely loud noises unless it serves the plot.
- Super Not-Drowning Skills
Video game characters can breathe underwater for infinite amounts of time.
- Surprisingly Functional Toys
When a Video Game character is shrunk and encounters a recognizable object scaled to the character's new size, said object will retain the function and properties scale of its original size.
- Suspiciously Small Army
Micromanaging or representing a military force on the scale of most modern armed forces would likely destroy either one's patience or video card.
- Suspicious Video Game Generosity
When the game gives you a whole whack of healing items and ammo, you're about to fight a nasty boss battle.
- Take Your Time
The villain won't put his dastardly plan into motion until you get there, no matter how long you partake in various sidequests. Wouldn't be fair to just realistically railroad you.
- Tech Tree
Instead of anything historically accurate, there's a tree of inventions that you use Research Points to buy your way through, so each tech has an oft-rigid set of prerequisite techs that don't always make sense.
- Three Round Deathmatch
Best of three wins in a Fighting Game. You start again with full health.
- Thriving Ghost Town
Cities and towns are much smaller than they should be for sustainability.
- Third Person Flashback
Normally, people don't see themselves in their own visual recall unless some mirror was there showing themselves. Can be used very effectively.
- Took a Shortcut
A common Hand Wave to explain other NPC's suddenly showing up past the dungeon you just risked life and limb getting through.
- Trauma Inn
Sleeping at an inn is guaranteed to instantly cure all your wounds.
- 24-Hour Armor
You wear your armor everywhere.
- Units Not to Scale
In Real-Time Strategy games, infantrymen are ridiculously large when compared to vehicles and buildings.
- Universal Driver's License
A character can drive any vehicle they come across without any training.
- Universal Poison
There's only one type of poison and generally one type of antidote for it. Saves a spot in the inventory.
- Vendor Trash
Merchants are more than happy to purchase your useless junk in endless quantities, even if there's no chance of reselling it.
- Very High Velocity Rounds
You've slowed down time and while enemy bullets will crawl like molasses, yours go at normal speed.
- Videogame Dashing
Lunging forward or back-stepping has the same effect as firing an invisible jet pack.
- Video Game Geography
The world map is a toroid. Distances aren't quite right. But hey - it's a video game!
- Video Game Stealing
A thief can pick the pockets of a giant direwolf in the middle of an all-out brawl and come away with an eight-foot claymore.
- Video Game Time
Fake use of a time scale means that empires rise and fall in the time it takes to take the trash out.
- Volumetric Mouth
How exactly did that mouth grow ridiculously huge?
- Wallet of Holding
Where you can collect millions of gold coins and not have your pants fall down.
- We Buy Anything
Wanna sell that suit of armor at a grocery store? They'll take it!
- Welcome to Corneria
Minor NPCs always say the same dialogue because they just can't put in endless words.
- Worst Aid
Certain instances of this, such as bending the elbows when performing chest compression on a live action actor while simulating CPR, are to avoid actually injuring the person since the ribs and/or sternum can be broken by using the full force of locked arms on them and can cause problems for the heart if it's not needed.
- You All Look Familiar
Because not all developers are ambitious enough and/or have enough time to go for a Cast of Snowflakes.
- You Call That A Wound
When a special character is incapable of dying or being seriously injured in a battle.
- You Get Knocked Down, You Get Back Up Again
In Video Games, when you're knocked down, you can't be damaged until you get back up, because it's quite annoying when it's averted.