The Purpose of CGI and ‘Emotional Realism’

The Purpose of CGI and ‘Emotional Realism’

In this thread, we dwell on the whole point of more technically advanced computer generated images and the way they help to tell developers better stories.

In this Friday thread, we dwell on the whole point of more versatile and technically advanced computer generated images and the way they help to tell developers better stories.

Image by Ismail Inceoglu.

Humans like to tell stories about other humans. They are rarely interested in anything else. Mostly because we don’t know anything else but our own kind. Sometimes we get a story about a clever fox or some robot, but really, we still perceive them as humans. As soon as your character starts to feel like a genuine person, you warm up to it and feel that connection. That’s why we have all those aliens that look like humans and walk like humans, and just do all that crazy human stuff. Who’d think a computer would fall in love, or plot revenge, or try to capture the world? Humans think that way and so they presume that everyone else thinks the same.

Artwork by Adriyan Tandia

Same story about environments. Time and time again, during different environment art courses, we hear the same thing: environment has to feel genuine. How do you achieve it? Add a human touch. Make it lived it, make it rugged, destroy something. Without a human intervention, environments feel sterile, boring and dead. It’s even better when the player can make his/her own impact on the environment. When you destroy that building, when you crumble that stone, you feel engaged and the environment basically becomes your own. That’s pure gold of environment design.

Image by Alexander Alza

So, in terms of a very high-level perspective, it seems like CGI, and real-time graphics, strive to achieve one goal only: make the digital realms feel more and more human. The realism of the character, the realism of reflections and lighting is there not to give us the way to give a more realistic image, but rather to help us modulate it in the most anthropomorphic way. The power of modern technology, this immense R&D is mostly geared toward the creation of storytelling flaws. You want cracked paint, vandalized parking lots, scratched weapons and asymmetric special effects. Technology has moved far behind just simple representation of reality, it has moved into a new place of generating human-influenced reality, which evokes powerful emotions.

Art byJean-loup Moncanis

This opens up a whole new perspective for artists. With the modern tech, artists finally got the opportunity to make their spaces more and more human-like. They can not only add these little tiny details, but they can twist the entire filter of our perception, they have the opportunity to show the world through their own eyes. That’s why it’s so awesome to have these outstanding works where artists show more and more personal touch, to see them develop their style, as well as add more and more human details to the character and space they are building.

Image by Dorian Marchesin

The moral here, I guess, is try to put more emphasis on ‘emotional realism’. Add flaws and defects, make your space feel more humane. So if you have a robot: make him smile? If you have a fox: make it care for its cubs. If you have a room: make it your own. If you have a game, make it something that appeals to a human being, a living soul, not a bunch of spreadsheets.

Discuss? What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

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Comments 2

  • Alanah Michelle Herlihy

    i'd like to reference this but there's no authors name, date or publisher, is there anywhere i could find it?


    Alanah Michelle Herlihy

    ·a year ago·
  • Richard Wilcoxson

    Gameplay first, graphics second.

    You can have the prettiest, most “human-like” game worlds every created, but if the game’s systems aren’t compelling then no one is going to care.

    - Call Of Duty’s graphics have always been top of the line, but their single player stories are often shallow and dull.
    - Rimworld is a roguelike sandbox game with addictive Sims-like gameplay that allows for the creation of compelling and unique player-generated stories, and it’s graphics are simple 2D sprites.

    Once developers (particularly AAA studios) can consistently make genuinely interesting and entertaining games, then they should focus on making them look pretty.
    If they made less Assassins Creeds, Battlefields and Far Crys and started making more games like Mount and Blade, XCOM and Prison Architect, maybe then I’d be interested in how nice their scenery looks.


    Richard Wilcoxson

    ·a year ago·

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