Wednesday, 26 July 2017
The art and joy of video game photography

Added: 18.03.2017 8:00 | 22 views | 0 comments

Did you know that in 2015 more people died while taking selfies than were killed in deadly shark attacks? I don't know how many people typically die in deadly shark attacks each year, and I've wasted enough of Google's time this week to bother finding out, but it makes for a snippy tabloid headline, or barstool factoid -- providing nobody asks too many follow-ups. Like a furious and lonely baby boomer in a Daily Mail comments section, I'd be tempted to judge the unfortunates behind the statistic were it not for the fact that, earlier this week I fell out of a tree while trying to photograph bird eggs.
Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a game of kaleidoscopic delights and diversions. But none has grabbed me with quite the force as the Hyrule compendium, an encyclopaedia that Link must fill with photographs of every distinct creature, foe, flower, fruit, weapon and chest in the game. There is a sticker album-like appeal to the occupation, of course: you gotta capture 'em all. But there is also a layer of creative expression to the endeavour. The precise image that you take of the horse, mushroom or hoe is the one that's added to the compendium. In this way, the game appeals not only to the completionist, but also to the perfectionist. Now, when facing up against a Hyrulian monstrosity, my first thought is not, 'Which sword should I use', but rather, 'To which spot should I lure the beast to make the best use of the light?' In 2017, in my game at least, more Links have died taking compendium shots than in encounters with sharks (and not only because the sharks in Hyrule are talkative, handsome and kind).
This trick of mechanising digital photography in videogames has become ever more fashionable since Pokémon Snap first asked us to snap a Charmander while riding a rollercoaster through the countryside. One of the best additions to Nintendo's recent handheld remake of Dragon Quest VIII, for example, is the character Camera Obscura, who commissions you to take pictures while on your travels. Rather than merely snap a monster to fill an encyclopaedia, you're required to photograph them during specific idling animations. Obscura also encourages you to take pictures of particular landmarks, statues and pieces of architecture, and rewards you richly for doing so.

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