A face stares at you on the television screen. He asks you what you name is and how you are feeling today. You answer wary of giving him too much information. He looks familiar like an obscured reflection. He’s a photorealistic copy of your self, he’s what could be the reality of the next decade of gaming.
L.A. Noire is a great example of a game that is using photorealistic qualities to create deeper, more immersive acting. From what Rockstar Games has shown us, we’re in for quite a thrill ride, but the game’s presentation could go two ways. The big question here is: are video game developers ready to place the human visage into the video game medium?
This article was written in 2005, and now in 2011 we have games like L.A. Noire presenting photorealistic qualities in games that we’ve never seen before. The article presents some prudent examples of stylism versus photorealism in video games. And it poses a few interesting questions to the reader.
Video games work through suspension of disbelief. They ask us to forget that we are being shown unrealistically depicted scenes and they ask us to participate within their fantasy. Or at least that’s how they have worked. When we engage in an experience like Mass Effect, we know that Commander Shephard is a virtual actor, a puppet through which the player interacts within her world. She is not real, though she possesses many of the qualities that make a video game character come to life. Even when it comes to narrative, character development and dialogue, a stylistic approach to interaction helps the gamer go beyond simple immersion. We forget that we’re playing a game and we start to believe that we are interacting with real people.
Imagine looking into a mirror, but instead of a reflection there staring you in the face was a Microsoft Xbox Kinect and a video screen. The Kinect would take your face, recreate it on the screen and show it to you. You could brush your teeth, comb your hair, wash your face and do everything that you would normally, but that is not, in the technical sense, your face. You would essentially be mediated between reality and virtual reality.