Even though much art is concerned with representing the real, it’s not about photo-realism so much as it is about interpretation and re-presentation. Spotted this lovely quote which captures that:
Drawing is a struggle between nature and the artist, in which the better the artist understands the intentions of nature, the more easily he will triumph over it. For him, it is not a question of copying, but interpreting in a simpler and more luminous language.— Charles Baudelaire, On the Ideal and the Model, 1846
I like that, and it’s interesting to think about how applies to games as an art form – unlike the overt intentions of painting or sculpture, games are not about representing the visual or tangible features of a thing, but about representing its internal structure – its workings, the interactions within the thing that lend it its essential character. Coupling the game structure itself with the three art forms necessary to make an actual game product – these being writing (literature), visuals (painting/sculpture), and sound (music) – a game designer strives to interpret and re-present real or imaginary thing in a simpler, more luminous language.
NB – you’ll notice I separate design of the game itself from design of its aesthetics and writing. Not everyone likes this distinction, and it’s true that they tend to merge somewhat in practice, but I find it useful for analysis.