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Feature: 'Videogame Aesthetics: The Future!'

In today's main Gamasutra feature, officially reprinted and archived for posterity from a version of the article available on his own website, mod-maker, photographer and...
In today's main Gamasutra feature, officially reprinted and archived for posterity from a version of the article available on his own website, mod-maker, photographer and writer David Hayward takes a look at the visual aesthetic state of games today. In the piece, Hayward comments on the current focus on photo-realism, citing titles such as Vib Ribbon, Rez and Darwinia as showing significant alternatives to the norm, and analyzes possibilities for gaming's future, commenting in his introduction: "Depending on your point of view, photo-realism is either a scourge or a grail. The drive for it has come to dominate the visual aesthetics of videogames, and current technology seems to be pushing us very close to a peak. Limited markets and rising development costs, however, seem to indicate a gaping abyss. So will photo-real games be well crafted marvels of technology, or feats of economic hubris infused with mediocre gameplay? Will they be the ferryman to conduct yet more development studios across the Styx? The photo-real push is obviously important to many people within and surrounding the game industry, as demonstrated not only by the persistent trend in commercial development, but also by work such as the System Shock 2 mod Rebirth, which replaced some of the models with curvier versions, designed for more powerful machines than the original game. Yet increasingly, the push is sneered at. Among some of the gamers I know, the latest graphical offerings get little more than apathy. Critics cite rising development costs and the potential of different artistic goals, and are generally scornful of industry resources being poured into visually superior concrete and monsters. Nonetheless, they seem dangerously close to drowning under the effusion of marketing departments and most players. In what appears to be a fit of turnabout, gamers often murmur "Of course, it's all about gameplay" when graphics blunder oafishly into the conversation. Well of course, interactivity is more fundamental to the medium than most if not all other parts of it. We'll always stand by gameplay: but it's graphics that will be handcuffing us to the bed during our next "business trip."" You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the subject, including many links to and screenshots of innovative, unconventional titles alongside interesting arguments on the future of gaming (no registration required, please feel free to link to the article from external websites).

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