There's been a lot of talk recently surrounding the idea of photorealism in games. Late last week 2K Games boss Christoph Hartmann claimed that games would struggle to convey deep emotions without photorealism. Now Kim Libreri, from Industrial Light and Magic — currently collaborating with LucasArts on Star Wars 1313 — has claimed that he thinks games can get there is 10 years. Are video game visuals really progressing that quickly, and do they need to be on that level to truly evoke an emotional response?
"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," said Hartmann, speaking to Games Industry International. "[I]t will be very hard to create very deep emotions like sadness or love, things that drive the movies," he said. "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 completely disagree with practically everything Hartmann says here but, regardless, Kim Libreri thinks we'll get to the endpoint sooner than many think.
"We’re getting to the point right now," he said, in an interview with CVG, "where we’re matching the quality of an animated movie seven or eight years ago, and another ten years from now, it’s just going to be indistinguishable from reality."
I don't know if visual quality has anything to do with the kind of emotion games can evoke from players — I'd argue the mechanics and what you're doing in games is far more important. But that's just me.
Photorealism will undoubtedly have some sort of effect on games and our experience of them, but most likely the change will be gradual. I think it's far important that mechanics become refined, surely that will allow players to become more involved in their experience?
It's a tricky discussion, and not one I'm too keen on delving into, but I'd like to hear your thoughts. How close do you think games are to photorealism, and how important do you think it is in the grand scheme of things?