One thought on “Videogame Aesthetics and the Quest for Photo Realism Leave a comment

  1. I found this post a bit late, I guess (almost a week since it was written), but I find the subject pretty interesting. I’m not a game developer, but I do love to play games. 😉

    Anyway, I agree with you that photo-realistic games really shouldn’t be the “holy grail” of gaming. As you say, we see real things everyday. What’s important is a believable atmosphere, which may or may not require photo-realistic graphics. Example: many RPG fans will tell you that Final Fantasy VII is one of the best console RPGs ever made, despite the fact that its characters are extremely anime-like polygons that are only vaguely human-shaped. Despite that, the game conveyed a world and characters that felt real (in much the same way that book characters can feel real), along with a storyline that really snared you along. (Don’t get me wrong, I love the recent visuals of FFVII: Advent’s Children, but the original game stands on its own merit.) Okami looks like it may be similar, except that it has the bonus of an intriguing, beautiful graphics scheme and a possible neat “innovation” in gameplay.

    In general, I think too many developers focus on the “shiny” aspect of the game (the graphics, since those are the easiest to show off) and ignore the gameplay, storyline, etc. One of the reasons that the MMO World of Warcraft has done so well, I think, is because of the quirky, not-quite-cartoony Warcraft style. The game is fun because it isn’t photo-realistic. It’s also instantly recognizable – you don’t confuse a Warcraft elf for any other breed. The trouble with photo-realism is that there are too many constraints and not enough room for individuality and creativity and style, all things that WoW tends to have in spades.

    Anyway, I’ve rambled on longer than I meant to. I had much the same reaction as you to the article when I read it, I think. I like to ooh and ahh at the shiny new graphics as much as anyone, but if a game doesn’t have the gameplay and storyline to pull me in, all the great graphics in the world aren’t going to make me play it.

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