Gaming is changing constantly, as we’ve observed in class. Most recently I read a blog that discussed how graphics will look in the coming year, and wow — it’s completely realistic. Check out this trailer to a game designing program coming out within the next year, CryENGINE 3.
The details are insane! It’s pretty awesome — the detail in the face of the man, the shadowing, the sophisticated lighting effects — it’s so realistic. The possibilities to create an authentic setting and experience seem pretty limitless with the advances in technology we’re moving towards. In a lot of ways, that’s really exciting.
Still, what really got me about this in particular is the drastic contrast to the games we’ve been playing in class, which are more concept based and arguably not graphic heavy or graphic focused. This truly alters the experience. I mean, think about interactive fiction where we get no images, only words that we use to interpret the author’s intended meaning and relate to our own experience and thus, create our own meaning. Then contrast it to the above trailer and the possibilities associated with it; the realism in games almost makes it mindless because what you see is simply, what it is. Furthermore, compare this experience to Nelson’s work, which relied on images to convey meaning but the images were abstract, cluttered, or non-literal. It’s the very opposite of the direction we’re moving in. That’s fine, but I can’t decide which experience is more valuable or even, more desirable.
When you play a game that looks so much like real life, there is a risk that there’s less to interpret; you’re not as encouraged to relate it to your experience or enhance your understanding of yourself through the game play because it’s all right there. Whereas with games we play in class, you have to dwell on your time playing because so much is left undefined by the images, words and directions. While I think both types of gaming are valuable in different ways, to me, this enhanced imaging is sort of limiting my experience to only what’s presented to me; essentially, it being so realistic almost makes it too straight-forward.
I also think this leads to another topic — escapism. Lately, I’ve noticed a trend in film and TV and such that the highest critically regarded media is that which paints life realistically. A recent example that I saw of this was George Clooney’s The Descendants, which was nominated for some Oscars and Academy Awards. Okay, fine, it’s a good movie but literally nothing happens; what I’m watching is the depressing truth about typical American families. It had heart and was beautifully filmed to show Hawaii not as paradise but as a place where people live and die. Why is this worth watching in the movies though, when I could look to a very similar story right next door? With the culmination of this realism in film and games and now social interaction becoming dependent on technology, I start to wonder why we value technology that essentially emulate real life rather than just living and enjoying our own reality?
So in this class, I think the best balance we’ve seen is The Path, which combined fairly good graphics with a narrative that still needed interpretation, and images that still required thought. We saw in discussion how everyone perceived similar conflicts between the sisters and growing up, but how we consumed those themes and related them to our own experience differently. I guess this argument may be hard to define because there are so many shades of gray, but in general, I appreciate that enhanced graphics and special effects have really improved in the last 50 years across the board, but I am concerned that we’re losing meaning and becoming disengaged by having everything presented to us in such realistic, straight-forward terms.