Video Gaming (EL 250)

6 Jan 2006

Koster, Aarseth, Hayward & Wong

If I were to ask all of to read the biography of an important psychologist, a journalism major, a creative writing major, and a literature major would each approach the book differently and evaluate it on different criteria. A psych major might not have the experience interpreting stories, but would bring a set of criteria from the world of psychology, and would thus focus on the accuracy and insight of the content.

Let's see what we can come up with as we consider the points raised by a game developer and writer (Koster), a level designer and art geek * (Hayward), a scholar of cybetext (Aarseth), and a journalist who knows the indistry well (Wong). All come to consider games from a different perspective.

Evan's response to one of the Hayward discussion questions did an excellent job crystalizing an issue I hope we can discuss here.

Hayward notes that video game rendering engines have approached closer and closer to achieving photorealistic images. But in the real world, cubism and abstract art grew very popular just as photography matured as a medium. When Madden Football touts realistic player arm hair as a selling point, we have to ask ourselves -- as Hayward does -- just how important is photorealism in video games?

Hayward offers several alternatives, but ends up concluding that greater realism will achive the "lucid dream" quality that gamers seem to want.

The prompt was:

What's your take on the importance of photorealistic graphics in games? You all know that I'm a textual person, and I know some of you have those tendencies. Refer to specific points Hayward makes (quoting directly from his article) in order to support a point you want to make about the visual aesthetics of video games. (Aesthetics = that which makes something beautiful and/or good, as well as a branch of philosophy that explores the relationship between that which is beautiful and that which is good.)

Evan's response was:

"Of course, though a graphic design tool such as flash easily lends itself to aesthetic experimentation, the potential illustrated by print translates into any 2D game, for instance Project Rub, Spheres of Chaos, and Vib Ribbon."

Hayward notes in this passage that aesthetic transcends medium. In other words, concepts that work on one visual medium can be applied to another with equal success. Spheres of Chaos is an excellent example of this concept. Note the quality of color in SOC. Although the images are pixelated, it works because it mirrors the established pointalistic ideal.

Another example is Shadow of Colossus. Note the use of color in that rendering. The omnipresent greens and greys establish a medeival, chivalrous feel. Like the method of yellow filtering in Amelie Poulin, Shadow of Colossus creates a world in and of itself. Whereas Amelie takes on a somewhat plastic skin texture, the environment in Shadow of Colossus takes on a more natural, earthly tone.

This is not by any means photorealistic; however, it works because the rendering compliments the setting and story.

Okami demonstrates that pure iconic renderings can be effective. Rendered as Japanese paintings, the design of Okami demonstrates a tasteful application of concepts from other media to a similar-themed game. Hayward calls this aesthetic "both stunning and thematically relevant."

Thus, because concepts of media transcend their originating medium and because certain media are established with effective concepts, video games can apply aesthetic qualities of other media effectively.

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Posted a response on my blog.

Posted by: Leslie Rodriguez at January 6, 2006 05:24 PM
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