Games are art. And just as there are artists in the visual arts who sell junk paintings as expensive masterpieces to cover up corruption, so many games, while they don't cover illegal operations, are also expensive junk. But such cases, both in the world of artists and gamers, are not rare, we can often enjoy a lot of good creative products. And in my opinion, video games continue to use more and more ideas and trends that really validate my words.
It so happened that this month we witnessed a bright manifestation of a new trend, which I decided to call hyperrealism in games. The fact is that it was in November that Death Stranding was released, a port of RDR 2 on PC and Shenmue 3. And although these games are radically different, they are related by accusations that they are too detailed and at times boring. But again, as for me - they are the most prominent representatives of the manifestation of hyperrealism in games.
Realism, realism, hyperrealism
In the past, I have already discussed a similar topic on our website, where I tried to figure out why realism and realism are two different things, what are their pros and cons. However, now the topic is still different, although I will refer to some points and examples from the previous material. But I will concentrate more on the three examples listed earlier.
First of all, what kind of hyperrealism is it, and where to insert it? Hyperrealism is more characteristic of the fine arts and arose on the aesthetic ideas of photorealism. Photorealist artists strive to convey a detailed image of the real world on canvas. You have probably seen such pictures, where the image is so detailed that it cannot be distinguished from a photograph. That is, in essence - a literal recreation of the real world on canvas. The term "hyperrealism" was coined by the artist Denis Peterson, who described to him a group of creators who refused to literally recreate the world in their pictures.
Such artists use photographic images in their work only as a basis, only in order to create a detailed image with their own emotional or creative component.
In simpler terms, they simulate something that never existed. Hyperrealists create a new, complex reality that differs in the crown from ours, but at the same time looks as if it really could exist. These images are high-resolution, highly detailed, and give the viewer a belief that it’s real, but essentially a clever illusion.
Too real to be funny
If you look at a hyperrealist painting, you will be surprised, enjoy [if you liked it], and after a few seconds you will look away. With games, everything is much more difficult, because we interact with them for hours, and quite often this only causes boredom among gamers.
Hyperrealism in games is manifested in the fact that game designers are meticulous in recreating the game world, introducing elements of realism into it, which are considered superfluous in our usual game design. The authors of such projects, on the contrary, bring the game world as close to ours as they can, but due to the fact that it is a game, it still remains a simulation of something that never existed.
And the pioneer in this regard is Yu Suzuki - the author of the Shenmue series, the third part of which was recently released. Before that, no one showed such meticulousness in recreating the game world as he did in 1997. With the Dreamcast, Sega needed a project that would squeeze all the juice out of their new console. Suzuki, accustomed to doing everything as he considers it right, completely not focusing on other developers and generally accepted design rules, created a game with budgets of 50 million, where the level of detail of objects and everyday life was simply phenomenal, not only for that time, but in principle.
You could talk to absolutely any NPC about any topic, and not one of them will be repeated. All mobs had their own clear daily schedule. Everyone had several options for answers in dialogues, and even their own blood type. The weather in the game was based on real data from the 80s. The main character had to wait for an appointment, and you could miss it, a failed mission led to the fact that you only repeat it the next day, and collectibles were hidden throughout the city, which had no meaning for the plot.
In his new game, Suzuki went further, for example, you can inspect any item in your house, rummage through all the boxes - just because you can do it, and you don't have to. Even the raindrops falling on Ryo make his jacket wet gradually, leaving characteristic marks. And all these details, which do not affect the plot in any way, are described by the author as follows:
“Shenmue does not necessarily correspond to reality, but everything that happens in it is also a reality that can be trusted, as if it is almost real. This is what I call entertainment. Somewhere between the truth and the lies of the reality we are trying to get into. People may think that I am trying to create something real, but this is not really our world, but rather a new reality that I am creating. ”
And this is the very notorious hyperrealism in games, when the real world is made for us, because that is what it should be. Our laws of logic and physics operate in it, it exists according to our rules, but at the same time it is out of touch with our reality.
The same thing happens in Death Stranding of Hideo Kojima, who has already been nicknamed both by the people and the media, a high-budget walking simulator. All these elements: monotonous walking in different directions, delivery of parcels, are needed in order to tell the most believable story within this world, which will evoke an emotional response in us. At the same time, Kojima in his game creates a lot of things that allow us to believe in what is happening, but understand that this is impossible. This is the appearance of objects from the air thanks to the chiral network, the ability to urinate and interact with the mushroom that has grown on this place, or the ability to throw grenades from your blood and shit at enemies.
What's the point?
However, this begs the question: what is the point of this, if we can greatly simplify the gameplay and throw shit at enemies in the same way, simply by removing boring, overly realistic elements from the game.
The fact that the eggs of my horse in Red Dead Redemption 2 will shrink in the cold will not help me get through the segment faster. But there is no better answer other than: Why not?
Yes, sometimes things like controlling your hat in RDR 2 may seem like overkill, but this triggers an emotional response and if the hat is lost, you will be offended. Hyperrealism in games is another method of immersion in the world of the game, another art technique that helps authors show their work from a side from which you have not previously been presented. And if you think that this is too much then, as in a gallery of modern art, you just need to shift your gaze to the next picture. Games can entertain, detach us from reality, or simulate it in a way that makes it seem like a chore.
As for me, this is a very important stage, because games have reached such a degree of evolution, when the reality in the game is so detailed that you can experience a routine that is not available to you. You won't be able to go out here and now and play in the arcade hall like in Ryo, you won't be able to climb a snow-covered mountain like Sam Bridges, or you won't be able to ride a horse with a dead animal loaded in the saddle and with a rifle at the ready like Arthur Morgan.
At the same time, even these hyper-realistic games have elements such as vampires, insane kung fu or a reinforced exoskeleton. These are not simulations, these are games with their own sets of rules, which often do not violate the rules of our reality.
Yes, sometimes it goes negative with the same boredom. When you walk forward for 20 minutes simply by pointing the stick forward or racking your brains in the spirit: “if I can take this detailed object in my hand: is it important for the plot or not?”, Or at the extreme you understand that you are tired enough of life and not ready also getting tired in the game is bad. But I see more opportunities that allow me to be more real in the game who I am not in my life, and get new experience.
And that's cool. I am sure that in the future we will have even more games like this that lean into this steppe or borrow elements of hyperrealism. For example, the same upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, where we will be given just a huge freedom to choose who to be and what to do. Again, games are art, with their own specific genres and subgenres.
The Topic of Article: Hyperrealism in games: how games prove once again that they are part of art.