Ever since video game consoles were capable of producing 3D graphics, gamers have dreamt about the potential of photo-realistic visuals. Especially during the early 2000s, as the increased horsepower allowed for a more crisp aesthetic, immersion was often quantified by how realistic a game’s graphics were. In fact, it is only fairly recently — perhaps due to the influx of indie games available on consoles — that the mainstream appreciation of video games has become less heavily associated with aesthetics.
Even if some of us have moved on from associating graphical advancements as a measure of a game’s success and quality, it’s still a massively important factor for many. Indeed, how pretty a game looks is still largely considered what defines “current gen” gaming. As players of these modern games, we want to explore ultra-realistic virtual worlds brought to life by high-fidelity visuals. The reflective properties of a river, the sheen on a sword, the muscular definition of our steed; the detail afforded to us by the potency of current generation hardware is considered of utmost importance in the creation of immersive environments.
Ironically, though, improvements of these sorts of attributes, impressive as they are, probably aren’t as essential as we believe them to be. It is, for example, almost entrancing to watch every cartridge eject from Snake’s gun in Metal Gear Solid V, such is the precision of that particular game’s visuals. Yet, the original PSOne title looked good enough back in 1998 that I can remember being totally enthralled by the game environment, despite its blocky and pixelated design. Indeed, the experience wasn’t any less because a gun’s recoil wasn’t detailed with immense precision or the vehicle textures were jagged. Ultimately, if you love a game, your mind will fill in any blanks created by poor graphical fidelity.
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If indie gaming, and the increasing popularity of retro gaming, has taught us anything, it is that exquisitely-detailed character models and ultra high resolution images aren’t a necessity in creating immersive environments. Not only is our own imagination a powerful tool in helping us to become lost in these digital worlds, but there is actually very little that cannot be accurately represented by low-quality or less realistic graphics. Or rather, there are very few times that something is trying to be conveyed to the player that fails because of inaccuracy in its representation.
Yet, there’s an aspect of video game narrative that has benefited exponentially from the crisp fidelity of modern graphical capability: sex. Indeed, sequences of action, drama, sorrow and scale, have benefited from improved hardware, but they’ve always been represented accurately enough to not jeopardize our experience. Conversely, the portrayal of sex in video games has been lagging way behind for the majority of the medium’s existence.
Sex, a most primal of human instincts, has been the hardest to convey in a way that invokes appropriate emotions like desire and lust. Video games can make us scared, and they can make us feel anxiety, depression and sadness, but sexual arousal and excitement hasn’t been so easy. Now, however, thanks to the realism of modern graphical technology, developers are beginning to invoke those emotions.