Realism Is Killing Our Imagination
Uncharted 3, L.A. Noire, Metal Gear Solid – they all try to be movies. They all succeed in certain ways and fail in others, but what they get right across the board is detail. You’re shown all of everything – you know what to think about a scene, about a level, a case, a boss, whatever, because you’re given it in such explicit detail.
My point? Well I’m wondering if we’ve lost the magic. Have we moved beyond the point where our minds – our imaginations – were necessary to fill in the gaps? When games looked good, but not great; when they looked shitty, but recognisable enough for you to understand what each coloured blob represented – were they more magical times?
The improvements to graphical fidelity mean we have Battlefield 3 – a game I cooed at as much as anyone else. We have Modern Warfare 3, which still looks phenomenal (if flat) for an apparently ‘outdated’ engine. We have the aforementioned three movie wannabes, which look like Real Life to varying degrees (and if combined into one glorious whole would probably be more real than reality).
That’s not a complaint. Games look better? Good. That’s great. I like that.
But when I had to fill in the gaps with my own imagination – when the animations didn’t quite keep up, when the detail was missing, when the characters looked like… well, this:
I can’t help but feel my experiences were richer as a result. I felt more involved; I felt closer to the experience as I had put more of myself into the experience – my brain had made an effort to make things that bit more real, and acceptable. The work hadn’t been done for me.
I may be way off with the point, but think about it – what do you get in your head when you think about, say, Gran Turismo 5? Is it the insane detail in the stitching of the seat fabric, or is it the fact that the standard cars looked a bit bum compared to the premium ones?
Now think about the original Gran Turismo, if your mind can go back that far – what do you see? I don’t know about you, but I see lifelike replays, with cars that looked phenomenal and thick, billowing clouds of dust that was so thick – so real – it could clog up your lungs just by playing the game.
It’s bullshit – my mind has entirely fabricated this latter point. But in doing so, it’s made the experience more special, more real to me. And that’s something I think is being lost more and more with triple-A gaming. In the pursuit of making things look like Real Life, games are losing their special place in real life.