Why BioShock Infinite ignores photorealism

2 min read


I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it up to the eyeballs with videogames that strive to achieve photorealism. It’s not that I don;t appreciate the technical prowess involved, or the skill that it takes to make digital rendering look like real life; it’s just that videogames offer the opportunity to escape to a fantasy world, and well, I live in real life. I really don’t need to escape to it too. It’s one of the many reasons I appreciate BioShock Infinite’s unique aesthetic.

Speaking to CVG, Irrational Games’ director of design Bill Gardner spoke about the general misconception that people want photorealism in their games – and why they’ve actively avoided it.

And to some degree it’s true: you get the latest drivers and the latest video cards and you really want to show what your beast can do. So what better way to do that than to say “hey this is New York City!” and to show the latest greatest game with all the settings cranked up. Realism sells that, I think.

“You look at Elizabeth, and she’s by no means super ultra photorealistic. That’s not our goal, it’s about making her relatable and believable and lovable. I think there’s plenty here [in Infinite] that would make you want to crank up the graphics card all the way and crank up all the options, but I think as an industry it’s the misconception [that gamers want realism] mixed with taking the easy road.

“It’s by no means easy trying to create photorealistic graphics, but if you’re trying to strive for that goal and to also mix in a crazy aesthetic that may be the exact juxtaposition to photorealistic? Yeah, I can see how that would be a hurdle for you. Certainly it’s an interesting quest to try to get photorealism, but it’s just not something that we’re interested in.”

I’ve generally always appreciated games that lean towards a more stylised aesthetic; titles like ICO, Okami,, Borderlands et al. Do you prefer games that have a more realistic bent?

Last Updated: March 5, 2013

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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