It’s all too realistic?

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.


  2 comments for “It’s all too realistic?

  1. cmccrzy
    April 23, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I joined the Beta for the next WoW expansion and I’ve seen the new graphic engines they’re putting into the game. The amount of detail in the new big area is simply stunning: the many different types of flowers, grass, hills, buildings (inside and out), in particular. There are new enemies to fight: some sort of lizardmen (of course there are no female models because that is the LAST thing Blizzard ever works on for every single non-playable species). The detail of their bodies is incredible. They’ve also added a number of new animals, including birds, monkeys, and tigers. The new tiger model is simply beautiful, and the crane model is lovely. They also added some new elementals with far more detail than previous models.

    The way water has changed is also amazing. If your character is submerged near the surface, and you’re looking at them from above, they appear blurry, as they would if you were looking at someone in the same position in a real-life scenario. They also form rather realistic movement ripples on the surface.

    Personally, I like WoW’s graphic style over a game that appears somewhat more “realistic” like Skyrim or Dark Souls. The latter games seem far more dreary than the rather bright WoW. That might also be because Skyrim is a video game, while WoW is a constantly modified online game, so WoW gets more time for adjustment… but I don’t know.

    There are problems with the style switch. A lot of people rage over Super Mario Bros. 3D, and there were similar problems with making Frogger and Pacman 3D. It’s not a “more realistic” approach, but it’s definitely a more advanced approach, which is all the “more realistic” switch is when you get down to it.

    I agree that this says good things for the future of video game graphics. I didn’t start playing WoW until near the end of Burning Crusade, so I wasn’t there for Vanilla WoW and I never played any of the Warcraft versions. I have, however, seen screenshots of the older games and they always make me cringe. I also like how every patch and expansion pushes the current level of WoW further away from that dark age by getting rid of outdated content.

    But then I look back at the evolution and I feel conflicted. I’ve been alive for the entirety of the Tomb Raider game franchise, and I remember sitting on my Dad’s bed and watching him play Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider 2, Tomb Raider 3, and Tomb Raider 4 and loving them. When I started playing them myself, they were fun. The way movement worked and the way you could interact with your environment was quite enjoyable. But Chronicles was the last use of the game engine used in the first five games and their extra downloadable levels. The newest five games have completely different game engines that I do not personally enjoy. They actually feel rather clunky. On the other hand, I love the way the art has improved DRASTICALLY because of the switch. The amount of detail on characters, surroundings, and the amount of realism concerning fighting and items is quite fun and amazing. It would help if I actually wanted to play the games to experience all of that.

    I don’t know. The future of game design looks interesting, at any rate.

  2. ebrennan
    April 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    dude, AWESOME comment. Quit showing up my blog, hah. I agree it’s really incredible how technical we’re getting — I mean, just lighting and shadow effects have made a huge impact on the visual. I still play my N64 (and will til I die or it dies) and the contrast between playing like Starcraft or anything really and then jumping on ps3 is insane graphically. My sister is 5 years younger than me and my brother, and she’s always wondering how we can even distinguish between the blurry characters. It’s only been 15 years and look how far we’ve come. Really good point about the more advanced approach for Mario and Frogger 3D; you’re right, to call it more realistic there wouldn’t fit but I constantly group film and gaming together for some reason (it’s what I wrote my analysis paper on) and I tend to think of the developments of those games like I view the developments of disney movies — from Aladdin to Toy Story kinda thing. Anyway, maybe I’m just nostalgic, but I still get a lot of satisfaction over these dated graphics. I mean, I doubt it will ever be a valuable or desired option as technology continues to progress, but at least the classics will always be the classics.

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