2K Games boss says games lack emotion without photorealism. Can Xbox 720 and PS4 deliver it?

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2K Games boss Christoph Hartmann has kicked up a fuss in games development circles, stating that games will forever lack the emotional punch and narrative thrust of cinema until they can deliver photorealistic graphics. Can the Xbox 720 or PS4 deliver this?

Speaking to GamesIndustry International, he said that:

“Recreating a Mission Impossible experience in gaming is easy; recreating emotions like 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. 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 photoealistic; then we will have reached an endpoint and that might be the final console.”

It’s a controversial stance, and one not necessarily agreed with by the games development community at large. One notable commentator who disagreed was Notch, indie darling and creator of the massively popular Minecraft. He took to Twitter, stating:

“No, Christoph, you limit the number of new genres if you focus on photorealism.

“I had way more emotions playing Proteus than I ever did playing any 2K game […] Also, Futurama has made me feel sad more than most sad movies can […] The Sting, Jurrasic Bark, Luck of the Fryish. Photorealistic? No.”

Hartmann’s comments are particularly interesting considering his publishing house’s current and forthcoming output. The recently released Spec Ops: The Line, despite being a military shooter, put a heavy emphasis on story-telling and the emotional impact of warfare, and the upcoming BioShock Infinite in particular has been praised for the way its characters can convey emotion despite having a caricatured style.

The next console generation of PS4 and Xbox 720 almost certainly promises a graphical boost, with developers such as David Cage, Peter Molyneux and BioWare all hoping to deliver emotionally-charged titles. However, money is as tight in the games industry as it is anywhere else at the moment, and chasing photorealism is an incredibly expensive endeavour. If Hartmann’s views are true, we could wait quite some time before games truly deliver an emotionally impactful experience.

Gerald Lynch

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