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Photo Mode: A Snapshot Of Our Gaming Landscape



Kids of the ’90s may remember the excitement over the release of Pokémon Snap’s N64. Unlike other popular Pokémon titles until then, it offered the ability to catch creatures not with a Poké Ball but with a camera. The game featured rushing rivers, sunny beaches, and dark caverns, all filled with familiar specimens. The most skilled players took – for our young minds – amazingly realistic snapshots of these roaming Pokémon in their natural habitat as the continuously moving vehicle moved forward. But that wasn’t enough to capture wild images of our favorite creatures. We needed to share these works of art with the world.

Unless you were scrolling friends past the home console to admire our digital albums, there didn’t seem to be a good way to do it. Enter the Pokémon Snap station. That tells you something about how popular the game is that its developer has gone to the trouble of installing these bulky printing machines across North America. Fans of the game could now find the nearest Pokémon Snap Station and print physical copies of their photos to show them in real life. While these gorgeous machines – and most of the rental shops that house them – are long gone, the urge to share great in-game photos isn’t. Gran Turismo 4 introduced its limited photo mode in 2005, and while it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles we’re used to today, it has helped pave the way for other games to follow. When New Pokémon Snap launched over 20 years later, video game photography was everywhere.

Technology has played an important role in this transformation. Wireless internet connections and the growing popularity of social media meant that developers no longer needed to find a way to bring physical printing methods to the masses of gamers. And, of course, graphics have come a long way since the N64 era. More beautiful games meant more image-worthy subjects. Combine all of that with the already-present urge to share epic moments with other players, and you’ve got a recipe for today’s photo mode-filled landscape.

Now, it’s almost more surprising when a game doesn’t include a shooting feature. For some games, the developers insert this mode directly into the game world. Red Dead Redemption 2, for example, gives players a camera straight out of 1899. The item can be found in your inventory alongside your arsenal of games. weapon essential but allows you to film the landscape rather than prying lawyers. There is no shortage of breathtaking panoramas either. One of the most beloved aspects of Red Dead Redemption 2 is its vast and detailed environment which contains dangerous mountain passes, alligator infested swamps and windswept plains. You can even turn the camera on on protagonist Arthur Morgan if you want.

Likewise, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild took a look at diegetic photography when it was released in 2018. As Link explores the beautiful open world, he can pull out his trusty phone-like Sheikah Slate to pose for. a quick selfie or commemorate his trip. There’s even an optional series of side quests that challenge players to capture and relive special moments in the hopes of reclaiming Link’s lost memory.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons also jumped at the in-game smartphone idea by giving the player a Nook Phone. Fortunately, it comes with the island getaway package and you no longer get into debt with the local Tom Nook bags of money. Nintendo’s hit 2020 slightly mixes up in-game and non-diegetic picture modes. While gamers can – and have, judging by the vast amounts of images swarming social media feeds during the pandemic – take fun selfies with the Nook device, the game is inviting gamers as well. to take photos with the Switch’s capture button during larger celebratory moments.

As well as giving fans a way to share their in-game adventures – or misadventures in some cases – photo modes also allow them to experience their virtual sandboxes in a slightly different way than other players. A virtual photographer can set up shots that establish different relationships between characters or highlight their hero’s unique worldview. Sometimes these images spark fan theories on the internet or launch viral memes which, in turn, influence the legacy of the game.

Many recent games containing a photo mode take a non-diegetic approach, perhaps players don’t necessarily need the snapshots to get an in-game explanation. God of War and Ghost of Tsushima are good examples of this. After the launch of God of War, the reboot of the famous series by Santa Monic Studio introduced a photo mode feature. It offered several options for the discerning artist, including filters, borders, and an assortment of technical adjustments. While some used these tools to enhance the dramatic tone of Kratos’ journey with his son, others rejoiced to slap a smile on the usually stoic face of the Greek hero. With perhaps one of the most beloved photo modes of all time, Ghost of Tsushima invited players to create the perfect photo with a dizzying amount of tools and the benefits of the game’s cinematic style and particle effects. .

It would have been difficult for anyone with an online presence to avoid seeing images taken from these games, which speaks to another aspect of modern photo mode. Players showcasing their in-game images with these tools simultaneously share the game with everyone in their social media circles. This is a big win for game makers who want to showcase their creations to as many potential players as possible. Of course, this is not intentional for most potential virtual photographers. Like the kids gathered around the Pokémon Snap Stations in the late ’90s, most gamers today just want to share cool images from their games with their friends.

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