May 22, 2002
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Stick figures

Writing in Wired, JC Herz argues that richer visual environments are they key to richly immersive game stories.

Technology has progressed to a point where credible interactive characters are now possible. Blocky stick figures firing square bullets don't lend themselves to elaborate back stories. The latest game characters have recognizable faces, are equipped with cool-looking weapons, and roam visually impressive environments. Here, as in the films, eye candy feeds the myth.

This must be mistaken: blocky stick figures lend themselves wonderfully to mythic richness. Visual realism creates sensual immersion, the sensation and specificity of immediacy; these are powerful forces, but their power can both hinder and help the storyteller. The Torah, you will remember, explicity forbids realistic depiction.

If you were interviewing artists to design a game world, wouldn't you want to talk to Degas? Cezanne? (Thanks to PeterMe for a wondeful precis of Herz's intriguing talk at Emerging Tech)