Think the dodge roll, a video game avoidance maneuver popularized by everything from Dark Souls to Legend of Zelda, is the height of armed combat, a stroke of tactical genius? This swordsman says you're very, very wrong.
Now, a comparison. Video game:
Yeaaaaah. Turns out that it doesn't take much effort to turn a blade slightly and send someone's head rolling from their rolling body. Bummer.
Actual sword dodging is a much simpler, more efficient motion, as one wrong move in a sword fight can mean instant death or a small cut that really stings a lot, especially if salt gets in it. For example, as demonstrated in the video:
Skall, the YouTuber behind the video, goes on to question why game designers don't just model dodging accurately, with slight movements and short hops instead of ponderously slow rolls. Admittedly not all games feature the dodge roll, but there are definitely upsides to it—reasons it's become so popular.
For one, it's not just an avoidance technique in games. It also covers distance, allowing players to re-position themselves in a big way or even briefly disengage from combat entirely. This makes for a greater range of possible tactical maneuvers and—on top of that—players can move out of striking range and readjust, rethink their attack plan, if need be. Combat can be overwhelming. The dodge roll is a remedy to that.
It's also satisfying. All that motion, all that power, smooshed into a tiny man-ball shaped explosion of movement. It feels good—arguably better than a quick side or back-step, although it depends on how those mechanics are designed too.
Those are just some quick reasons for the dodge roll's popularity in games despite its absurd impracticality. And while dodge rolling definitely falls under the purview of "kids, don't try this at home (unless you have a death wish)," that hasn't stopped some people from attempting it in real combat scenarios anyway. Case in point: