Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Game Photography - More Stuffs!

While still not a common sight, taking photos within video games to express an artistic viewpoint within that world is still a thing. A cool thing. I probably spent more time in The Old Republic and GTAV taking photos with the in-game camera equipment then playing the games themselves. Okay maybe not GTAV. I do a LOT of driving as well. And even without modding Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (though most do), you can get some amazing stills that could be 100% art in their own right.

So seeing the headline from Time Magazine "This War Photographer Embedded Himself in a Video Game," I was curious. Rarely do we see known journalistic publications take a stab at gaming that doesn't cover product reviews or media's effect on violence. But what I did find, I was a bit disappointed by. Ashley Gilbertson is a known war photographer. He (and yes, that is the right pronoun) has been in conflict zones and areas of the world we wouldn't dare to imagine, to capture life as it happens when war takes over. But this idea of going into a video game, immersing oneself into the environment like he would in reality, was not his idea. It was Time's. And they chose the game too: The Last of Us, Remastered. For me, this is problem one. We have a journalist who wasn't interested in the content. I'm not saying that he had to be a gamer in order to get involved with the project. I like seeing alternate points of view. But by being placed with this task, he wasn't able to keep an objective perspective. At least if there was interested in the project, he would have been more in-tune with providing full coverage. The first few paragraphs read like a typical gaming critic (in this case, I'm using critic in the negative sense as one who thinks all games are bad), using lovely buzz words of 'hyperviolent' and 'pseudo-sexual.' Okay that last one was in reference to a zombie, and zombies are never to be viewed as sexy. Ever. That's just...ew.

Second thing that bothered me was Gilbertson handing the controls over to someone at Time who was a gamer, and he became the passive observer. While I can understand from a photographer's point of view this can make sense in the real world. You're not the one holding the gun, you're taking a picture of the guy with the gun. But in this change, the photographer is missing out on the heat of what makes video game art so different from everything else out there. The fact that you experience the action as it happens, and you're in control of the events around you. Is it possible that you'll miss great photos while you're dodging zombies? Absolutely. But you can also capture breathtaking moments during those tumbles and falls that you wouldn't have experienced otherwise. And when you play as secondary viewer, you miss those experiences. Instead you start focusing on angles, composition, colors, and lighting. Your brain goes into "photographer mode" and can't separate it from the game in front of you. The beauty of gaming photography are those moments where you are diving, ducking, and weaving between enemies. There is so much to be captured there, and now you're missing it because you are a bystander looking over the gamers shoulder.

Third was this quote: "None of the game’s characters show distress[.]" Well...duh? But this is something where if Gilbertson had actually played the game, he would understand why the characters were not showing as much emotion in-between cutscenes and on the general "battlefield." This is an infection that has taken years to spread. It's become commonplace to see zombies and the infected. Humans have become numb to the situation presented to them, much like one would in reality. So yes, your "virtual daughter" (argh! if you're going to be a spectator, at least pay attention to the story!) is lacking emotion when it's not in cutscenes or a Clicker creeping up behind you.

I wish Gilbertson had more of an open mind about the experience and taken charge with the assignment. Maybe then he would have understood how art exists in a video game world. Pretty scenery is nice, but it is those moments where you're on the field, dodging bullets, that you see the beauty in something instinctual to a gamer.


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