Like many gamer's, I follow the latest game news, stories, and gossip surrounding the industry. Recently there has been some debate about photo realism in games. And whether or not they are required for new genres, and emotional investment in said game.
I just finished watching Jim Sterling's new video which was quite good, and I thought to myself, "no you dont need photo-realism for any of that, if anything, its just an excuse to put all your eggs in the graphics race and not enough eggs in the art style, gameplay, story, characters race".
New genres huh...........when I think of this gen, and the kinds of new genres we've seen 3 games pop into my head. Knights in the Knightmare, Valkyria Chronicles and inazuma eleven.
All 3 are not realistic. And all 3 are completely original genres. Knights in the knightmare is a strategy rpg bullet hell ( likely the first and last of its kind) and inazuma eleven is a soccer rpg.
Did Sting, and level 5 need photo realism to make new genres? no, not really
Valkyria Chronicles 1-3, Third person strategy rpgs. Unlike anything Ive played before. Water color art style. Not photo realism. Sega didnt have any problems making something new there.............
I think its safe to say, you dont NEED photo realism for new genres.
Now, on to the next topic, Emotion..............
In the following section I will list the games this gen, that gave me the greatest emotional reaction. You will notice, not a single one of these games is realistic.
Dragon Quest V - God, the main character has such a shit life. SPOILERS - First is father is murdered, then hes put into a 10 year slavery term. Then his wife is turned to stone, and finally his children are born and he really doesnt know them. Now, I am a man. And I am not ashamed to admit this story, really really got to me. I hated these villians, I wanted to see them pay. This is a sprite based game and I felt real emotion.
To The Moon - Another sprite based rpg based off the rpgmaker sprite engine ( which off topic is seeing an explosion of great indie rpg projects in the vein of old school sprite rpgs). To The Moon was recommended to me by a member of Destructoids Outer Heaven Chat Room ( whose name escapes me now), and I have to say, that person will gets the gold star. Essentially, you play as a character who grants last requests. Its touching. Its a story about living life to the fullest when you have the chance, and about regret, when you no longer have the chance. It touched me and almost made me loose it on more than 1 occasion.
Valkyria 1 - War, Romance, Death very powerful themes, all fully explored in the fleshed out world of a neo war 2 europe setting. At first it starts out pretty light hearted, the team is coming together, you win your battles and then............well...........stuff goes down. More stuff goes down, people die, people's lives are fleshed out. And suddenly, this war story got very real and very tough to play through. Tugged at my heart strings
All 3 titles are not realistic, yet they provided me with the greatest emotional MATURE responses of the entire gen for me.
1 last titled provided a very different emotional response. But emotional none the less.
Super Paper Mario - I dont think I've ever laughed so hard at complete nonsense. Mustache jokes? Stupid Nickname enuendo's? So much nostalgia it could choke a goat? Yeah thats this game. This game probably provided the laughter portion of the gen for me. Laughter is also a very real emotional response. As it lead to happiness. Playing this game made me happy. Here are some examples of some of the stuff I almost died laughing over:
"Merlon?! Only his full bodied beard rivals my hairy magnificence..."\
"Bah! Mario... AND Luigi?! How'd you get in here?...What? My front gate was open?! How many times have I told those idiots?! If you're the last in, LOCK THE GATE!"
"THREAT LEVEL UPGRADED TO JELLY ROLL 1. DETONATION IMMINENT." "LEVEL 5 MUSTACHE DETECTED."
"Hey, King Incompetent! I'm gonna hatch an evil plan on your FACE! Have at you!"
My point in writing this article was really to say, Jim was on the money with his latest video.
We dont need photo realism for emotion in games, nor new genres.