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2K Games says photorealism is needed for innovation

9:00 AM on 08.02.2012 // Jim Sterling
  @JimSterling

2K Games, ignoring the fact that it is publishing BioShock Infinite and Borderlands 2 -- two incredibly cartoony games that are nonetheless unique and promising -- has stated that photorealism will drive innovation, and that new genres won't open up easily without it. 

"Recreating a Mission Impossible experience in gaming is easy; 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," the 2K boss told GI. "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.

"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."

I don't know where to begin with this madness. There are so many responses that just one cannot be chosen. I have therefore listed all rebukes in bullet-point form. Feel free to pick your best ones, or suggest new ones of your own!

  • The drive for better graphics has, arguably, caused this generation to stagnate as people offer "gritty" military shooters and confuse "realistic" for dreary browns and grays. 
  • Focusing purely on making pretty graphics means less time spent on good writing and characters -- see Final Fantasy XIII or Heavy Rain. Just having faces that can emote means nothing if you can't provide the narrative to back it up. Sociopaths are great at mimicking facial expressions, it doesn't mean they do it with feeling. 
  • Similarly, books do just fine at engaging their readers without images, because again, good writing trumps all. 
  • The trailer alone for BioShock Infinite has caused chills to go down the spine of viewers. Irrational Games is intentionally going for less realism and more cartoon-like graphics. 
  • The more games go for photorealism, the more they encroach on uncanny valley territory -- territory famous for actively breaking our emotional engagement, rather than strengthening it. 
  • Disney Pixar movies are notorious for producing some of the most emotionally engaging, provocative, and saddening movies of recent years -- both Toy Story 3 and UP have had grown men cry. Earlier animated films, like The Lion King, are similarly engaging despite -- or perhaps thanks to -- their less realistic visuals. 
  • Right now, I cannot think of a single graphically "realistic" game that has innovated this generation. On the contrary, Minecraft is one of the most unique and celebrated experiences of the past few years, and it looks like the incestuous product of a LEGO orgy. 
  • In fact, due to the high costs of AAA development, publishers have demonstrated a continued unwillingness to innovative, scared as they are of not following the latest success story. It's been left to the poorer, less graphically impressive games to provide any sorts of new experiences. 
  • Meanwhile, Orlando Bloom is as photorealistic as they come, and he's about as innovative as a toilet roll tube and emotional as a piece of driftwood in the world's most boring room.


Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
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Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory

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