...and why Link from The Wind Waker looks fantastic. Like, well, like a cartoon.
If tomorrow I was elected King of Games (it’s an elected position, yes), the first thing I would do is declare a moratorium on making graphics more realistic. I hereby declare all graphics henceforth as Good Enough. Take all that effort and put it into making better physics so we can get a VR game that really nails telekinesis or invent a videogame ladder that actually goddamn works. Actually, the first thing I would do is demand a port of Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie to the Switch, then the graphics thing. Then probably outlaw any PvP that’s not opt-in (I am a busy adult, FromSoft, and sometimes I need to pause my game to do important shit), then make it so anyone who has unironically used the term “real gamer” can only play Dreamcast together and nothing else.
I want to make a distinction here between graphics and art direction. I’m talking about games trying to visually emulate the appearance of the real world as closely as possible object-to-object. I’m not talking about the overall aesthetic of a game world, which is, to my mind, vastly more important. Despite what forums full of angry nerds will tell you, visual realism doesn’t immediately make a game visually appealing. It’s why The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which was basically shot on an old can of beans with a hole punched in it with a screwdriver, looks goddamn amazing:
Whereas the airport fight scene in Captain America: Civil War was shot on a customized version of the Arri Alexa 65, a 6K 65mm beast of a camera, a barebones version of which costs over $10,000 per day to rent. If the visual fidelity in this scene was any better it would be a play. And that scene ended up looking like this: