RND/ To consider ‘cinematic photorealism’ in videogames as a techno-cult ideology: part of the Hypertography One Exhibit.
/ Hyperreal Aesthetics Of The Light In Battlefield
Weapons are not just tools of destruction they are also tools of perception
– Theorist Paul Virilio
To consider that even the light in the Battlefield videogame franchise directly signifies a gleaming surface – ideological – reality 
In which even light itself appears an information channel, imparting specific ideas – in case of Battlefield, ideas about war – which have direct efficacy in the real world.
Battlefield, an important cultural commentary and propaganda statement on modern warfare – its alleged social Darwinian naturalness and unquestionable inevitability.
The idea being that war – now with improved destructibility – is both exciting and manly – that ‘playing war games’ makes one more alive – though anyone who needs to feel ‘more alive’ through constant death and untold destruction probably means they’re already members of the living dead.
To these unspoken ideological ends, Frostbite Engine gives its full graphical support – directly providing an ‘epic feel’, direct access to a far right, ultra conservative political worldview though advanced ‘Natural’™ lighting – creating soul stirring spasms of shocking, awe inspiring power and totalizing destruction.
Game Engines are not ‘neutral’ tools, but directly help (literally) ‘render’ or directly manifest on screen and-or in eyes of players the toxic ideology of Militainment. Ah, those fresh beautiful – dead – battlefield mournings; note however how effortless it all is – the normalizing dance of the light in the clouds – why, one can almost smell the refined (canned) ozone of All Amerikan Air Dropped Freedom™
Note there are never really any humans in such videogame system spaces, only mindless drones, darting about on fully automatic – headless and insanely logical.
Multiplayer game servers as abandoned near future dystopian Megacities, lifeless and silent, exposed as another manifestation of the insanity of the Great War Engine – now always live and direct, online – rendered realtime as just another brainlessly enjoyable eSport from abominable global (big business) theater – the absurdly deadening third (world) order of Simulacra.
Warning: such non places are not safe for work – or play
To consider Unreal Engine now officially a literal War Engine.
Sorry volks, but Unreal Engine is not an art style:
Style is the answer to everything
– Charles Bukowski
Lament; to consider how it might seem some modern game developers still need reminding that ‘Unreal Engine’ is not an art style;
In the blind uninterrupted pursuit of every increasing graphical fidelity levels – some dimly attendant Cinematic™ Realism – a keen sense of art style andor direction are too often bypassed entirely in immediate favor of an often subtle, yet essentially simplistic application of colored lights, ‘gritty’ metallic surfaces and textures.
That is, gamedevs using such engines seem too often to be merely intent on displaying the innate, pre-packaged light rendering qualities of the engine, and little else – what the engine does anyhow by default, ie. show off ‘nice’ lighting effects.
While every choice one makes in-engine can conceivably considered ‘artistic’, they’re often entirely free of far more expressive styles expressed by, eg. Team Fortress 2, LSD Dream Emulator, Killer 7, Thumper or Return Of The Obra Dinn.
Virtually nothing in terms of actual art direction seems to be happening at Unreal’s Outpost 23, it all seems about bowing to the empty spectacle of Tech, an endless fawning to the (neural) computational expense of everything else.
Yet as Robert What’s so-called Abstract Encounters group correctly states with their one word manifesto against Realism – “Technically Impressive isn’t.”
If one drags oneself away from the apparently overwhelming majesty of how ‘cool’ everything looks for a second, it’s easy to realize that such video space is almost entirely devoid of actual style – hey, maybe it doesn’t actually need any, but it’s often still cause for artistic concern, considering the amount of gamedevs which often ‘switch to (/the) Unreal’.
Dig Unreal’s multiplayer level Outpost 23 for instance, where style got wrapped in shiny plastic – “High Tech Uber Alles; all other artistic priorities rescinded.”
The only message to gamedevs and players being shouted by such scenes is “Cool huh? I know, right! Right?”
Just take look at poor old Malcolm Mcflak in the scene above – imagine what he remotely thinks he’s doing. Very little as it turns out; notice how Malcolm is dressed in the latest active deathmatch arena armor, which shows off some very pretty highlights, complete with his warm green woolen cap and his incredibly detailed, massively oversized personal over-compensation weapon – Malcolm looks ready for anything – anything except for the immanent threat of actual style.
For despite his slick look, Malcolm’s as goddam hyper-generic as the techno blandscape which – literally – spawned the poor dim schmuck.
Rather than surpassed, unfortunately it seems “Brown Games” have been merely been sublimated, the conceptually dubious torch of ‘technical sophistication and fidelity level in service of cinematic realism’ merely passed on to the next new generation of rendering engines and gamedevs which use them (andor get used up by them.)
Update Patch: Philip Klevestav
one good example of actual style – one of quote painting with light – as work of philip klevestav once wasted as an artist on Blizzard’s Overwatch.
Philip’s Sci Fi interior scene displays understanding of nuance, the strong interplay between architectural structure and the precise lighting needed to embody and fully express it – that is, light not used as merely another decorative source but as overt stylistic expression.
Update Patch 2: Allison Road, et al
in which something about rendering engines ideologically pursuing photorealism – the ideological rendering of the concept of Home in, eg Allison Road feels disturbingly unreal. Uncanny.
Update Patch 3: The Epic Lie
Congratulations to Epic Games, now a literal Gear Of War – its Unreal Engine the official engine of death and destruction:
/ On Graphical Fidelity Generally and the Blind Pursuit of T.C.R Total Cinematic Realism
Rather than reproducing the “world” spontaneously and automatically, as the ideology of realism would have the spectator believe, the cinematic apparatus always operates selectively, limiting, filtering and transforming the images that are its raw material.
– David Rodowick, The Crisis of Political Modernism 1994 p77
In keeping with Boing Boing’s strict classic attention economy injunction “Just look at it!”, consider an environmental concept of the game Deus Ex, as rendered in Unreal Engine – just look at it, for what exists™ is always good – and now here’s even more of it, you bastards:
Regarding Unreal Engine’s realistic aesthetics; it’s like a prison environment that one looks out at with the usual passive disinterest – but what one sees might belong to the prevailing I.O.R Ideology Of Realism’;
Consider what being manifested on screen or ‘rendered’ as a virtual set of cultural ideas regarding the distinct non playability / non interactivity of a cold, hard symbolic environment of massive Control.
Such video game spaces featuring incredibly detail (scientifically accurate lighting effects) are often referred to as ‘tech demos’ or ‘barely interactive screen savers’ since they only allow strictly limited sets of predefined interactive possibilities, eg. WASD while shooting brown people in the face.
One loud, unspoken assumption being stated in this scene, in and through every pixel concerns how things are, and how they should be – but according to who?
Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real
– Niels Bohr
It’s almost as though the reason such a world displays such a precise, high degree of graphic fidelity is precisely because it does not want anyone or any force to change it; such a world exists in a state of total, permanent lock down.
Such an environment appears one of control, or precise mechanical movement and security; a player’s modern alienation is built into the scene, is reflected back in their exact lack of genuine options for meaningful interaction.
Consider the modern, blindly aggressive pursuit of T.C.R Total Cinematic Realism in/as videogame spaces, and what might be called their ‘graphic fidelity – that is, the unquestioning loyalty to the violence of cinematic realism.
People’s concept of what’s real is almost always that which is most convenient for them to believe at the time
– Brian Eno, Imaginary Iandscapes documentary, 1989
Perhaps the aesthetics being rendered in this Deus Ex Unreal Engine scene are the ‘realistic’ aesthetics of prison environments in the robotic name of prevention of non official player meanings. Only the cult of T.C.R is able to be known, or directly seen in this Scene.
Remixed screens of most excellent article about graphical realism – Parallax View by Real World Mag 
/ On Feeling High On Dead End Thrills
Consider research & development, not merely about realistic high fidelity graphics or frozen ‘epic’ moments – but about living people, their dynamic relationships and strange ideas; indeed anything else seems a dead, dry end
[..] the fundamental qualities that make a good game have remained unchanged and elusive. Consumers still flock to buy original, addictive, and fun games, leaving many flashy products with million-dollar budgets languishing in the $9.99 bin. These costly failures demonstrate that the consumer does not desire a cinematic experience, but rather a quality gaming experience.
-Sid Meier, game designer
To consider Dead End Thrills as a slick propaganda website for Total Cinematic Photorealism – encouraging the default hollow ‘passion’ and continued near total lack of imaginative talent behind the worlds most generic videogame spaces.
Indeed, try throwing back another shot every time another unctuous games industry figurine talks jive about ‘passion’ in videogame spaces – as though on an ideological mission to consider the essential elements of play mere distraction; along the way, provide ‘lovingly captured snapshots’ of often startlingly empty virtual worlds and their blandly beautiful inhabitants – where even designer dirt is clean.
Virtually all of Dead End’s screen shots seem to come from the same (ideological) engine – an engine that can only render clones and cookie cutter landscapes.
One might accurately compared such work with that of a lost unit stills photographer on some dull movie set, whose job it is as to falsely flatter and mis-translate videogame space – to somehow provide a visual document not entirely diminished by technology – yet which is in fact nearly entirely defined by I.T. Another overt attempt to further confuse vitally important ‘play’ as strictly big business debates.
The modern videogame realism equation is as follows:
Where “polish” signifies more effort (work) equals higher ‘Worth’ (ie psychological / consumer sunk-costs justification) = mo profit$!!
That is, the only true interest is in heavily sanitized (corporate) Art™ which exists within the dumb ‘entertrainment’ medium only.
In a paradoxically sly bid to validate it’s own R&D or win approval from an otherwise intelligent jury of videogame critics, Dead End Thrills is falsely inspired primarily by the ‘Journal Of Cinematic Illusions’ – nice name.
It’s choice of research is decidedly discriminatory; even worse, it patronizingly states that even the most rushed or underfunded games can dazzle and inspire – as though Hotline Miami wants or needs anyone to give it a graphical makeover.
The site has gone through few changes over years and has settled on what it regards as its ‘purest’ format to date.
Images are downloadedable at high rez, and are available upon request at ‘extreme’ rez, suitable for print by hipsters.
Yet, while it maintains it’s not a simple wallpaper resource, virtually all of its disturbingly samely snap shots appear to have been taken with that precise use in mind.
Dead End Thrills feels like expensively cheap videogame tourism, that unconsciously loves ogling videogame landmarks with a virtual Instamatic camera – even ridiculously states that this is actually the job of play itself; indeed Rockstar Games would agree.
It’s central underlying ethic is that of work; to confine and isolate videogames from wider cultural questions.
Indeed, its contributors discard hundreds more shots than they post in an all out effort of deliberate selection and design – ie. cultural decontextualization.
Its also why games only tend to feature there if they allow inherently limited pseudo freedom of control over camera and game events.
While no photoshopping is allowed beyond subtle tweaks to gamma, a distinctly self-perceived male player gaze is in full effect.
In order to produce such images seen on site, the games themselves are heavily modded – made exactly similar because that’s the ‘serious’ business of games. To display the industry proudly.
It’s all about ‘downsampling’ – rendering at hi rez then shrinking to quote improve quality (of the modern image of what it thinks games should be), in many cases capturing what makes these games live, holding them inside dead images, only possible thanks to the per arranged generosity and mutual ‘understanding’ of developers who provide unlocked or early builds of their games.
Credit of course should go to the hackers and modders who enjoy truly opening retail games up so that anyone can explore them – yet Dead End Thrills only seems dedicated to giant hardware corporations whose sole job it is to promote the environment destroying technology of games (For seekers of Dead End graphical thrills, it’s merely a capitalist ‘win win’ scenario as long as one is provided with necessary equipment to crash and burn on these games-as-services on a regular basis.)
The entire site is proudly powered (indelicately perfumed) with the alarming corporate cloud of Intel, Corsair and Nvidia, it’s images are hosted by the ‘content delivery network’ (wow, how Super Generic. This mirrors how the AAA Games Industry often talks about the millions of hours, tears and sweat poured into videogame art in terms of mere content – like styrofoam packing peanuts.
If not for the living players which inhabit them, such videogame worlds seen on Dead End Thrills appear soulless and dead.
The empty spaces it visits, are explored repeatedly to find what it safely regards as ‘best possible quality’ and most ‘appropriate’ formats – that is, the most generically ‘exciting’ and ‘evocative’ moments – that is, which appear just like advertisements for the AAA Videogames Industry. Indeed, Dead End Thrills has produced marketing and production assets for companies such as Bethesda game studios, Arkane studios and Crytek under strict contract – a fact which doesn’t seem to bother anyone.
Example Reference Links
- Photorealist Work Ethic
- Real World Mag: Parallax View (Michael Thompsen)
- Videogame Neorealism
- Nvidia Rendering
// how to play big science