Through a case study, this article explores a number of theoretical issues related to the often taken for granted relationship between simulator fidelity and the quality and transferability of training in complex, dynamic, safety-critical settings. A counterexample based on mid-fidelity simulation is presented and the assumed coincidence of fidelity and validity is tested, that is the study tests the equation of constructed photorealism (built to mimic reality) and effective development of the competence that operators require to manage situations that involve underspecified problems, time pressure constraints and complex group interaction. The article concludes that such competence development cannot rely only on highly context-specific (photorealistic) environments. Further, it will be argued that lower-fidelity simulation, when appropriately designed, can provide competence development with pedagogical and economic advantages.