Do games need photorealism to convey emotion?

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Right now, most of the big-budget games coming your way are action-oriented titles – all about shooting, or killing, or maiming things as you proceed from one spot to another to do it all over again. The reason for that, says 2K games boss Christoph Hartmann, is that graphics in games isn’t sufficiently advanced enough to truly convey emotion – making shooters and action games a safer bet.

“Recreating a Mission Impossible experience in gaming is easy,” he said to GameInformer.  “Recreating emotions in Brokeback Mountain is going to be tough, or at least very sensitive in this country… it will be very hard to create very deep emotions like sadness or love, things that drive the movies. Until games are photorealistic, it’ll be very hard to open up to new genres. We can really only focus on action and shooter titles; those are suitable for consoles now.”

He believes that before gaming can evolve and spawn new genres, we’d require photorealism in games.

“To dramatically change the industry to where we can insert a whole range of emotions, I feel it will only happen when we reach the point that games are photorealistic; then we will have reached an endpoint and that might be the final console.”

In a way, I understand where he’s coming from – and it’s all down to the Uncanny Valley business. The closer video game characters get to looking real, the creepier and more alien they seem – creating a cognitive dissonance that wholly detracts from emotional response  – so it becomes incredibly tricky to convey, and have people feel the genuine emotion with characters who sort of but don’t really seem human.

That said, I don’t believe we need photorealism to stir emotion within gamers; Final Fantasy VII certainly proved that in 1997 (You KNOW why, you crybaby!) and there are numerous other games that’ve provoked an emotional response within me; Bioshock, The Darkness, Limbo, Braid, Silent Hill 2, Red Dead Redemption, Shadow of the Colossus – and hell,  perhaps even Gears of War 3. Quantic Dreams recent Kara demo proved, I think, that it’s possible to make you feel, using current technology. Hell, books have been making people feel for forever, and hardly any of them even have pictures.

What games have made you feel…feelings?

Last Updated: June 13, 2017

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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