Video games coming close to ‘uncanny valley’

By Giuliano Djen

We have come far in the world of video games. From the primarily pixelated graphics to some of the most realistic renders mankind has ever seen, video games have undoubtedly advanced technically and visually. If someone was to go back in time with a modern video game and show it to me, I would think that there was no way we progressed so quickly in a couple of years.

The funny thing is that we did. We progressed fast. Video games from the past were something society did not think would develop into something big. Now, it is so much more than that. It is a medium for telling stories, gathering with friends and playing mindlessly for fun. Video game developers have truly come far. Beforehand, they barely scratched the surface of what could truly be accomplished in terms of graphics.

But, how realistic is too realistic? I was bouncing around the Internet one day and found a demo from a game company that showed off the latest and greatest graphics. I nearly fell out of my seat when watching the video. The graphics in the demo showed different muscles on a number of characters’ faces moving fluidly and lifelike as well as real-time lighting effects of the surrounding environment.

The faces were so realistic that they sent shivers down my spine. It hit me: this was heading towards the “uncanny valley.” The muscle movements were so indistinguishable that if the demo was put side-by-side a real person, the character in the demo model could pass off as a real person. The comparison is that uncanny.

But what is the “uncanny valley?” The “uncanny valley” is a phenomenon that occurs when graphics or robots resemble a human being. Whether it is a muscle tick or facial emotions, the slightest similarity between humans and robots can make anyone uncomfortable.

My point is that the gaming industry is capable of developing true to life graphics. Sure, the graphics in the demo does not compare to something one would see out the window, but it is comparable. People should realize that it is possible to achieve something like this, and professionals are only getting better at it.

The gaming industry is expanding its horizons and changing the way people view the medium. Gaming is not something that you can simply disregard anymore. We went from something as simple as “Pong” to “Call of Duty” and “Until Dawn.” The average person must realize a game is no longer just a “game.” Rather, it is a cinematic experience packaged with it.

Society has always been on the brink of this lifelike graphics surge. For instance, the movie industry is no stranger to the world of graphics. I would not be surprised if the probability of bigwig movies using computer-generated imagery since 2005 would be high. CGI-only movies, such as “Big Hero 6” and the “Toy Story” series, have taken the public by storm.

Professionals are taking advantage of technology and using it to create different ways of telling stories and making new worlds. Whether it is something one watches or something one plays, this new form of technology is something one simply cannot escape. Advanced graphics are here to stay, and the games people are anticipating to play may as well be playable movies.

However, as a consumer of these products, I hope these graphics do not reach the point of the “uncanny valley.” I also hope that movie and video game industries recognize their limits.

Video game

Courtesy of 343 Industries

Video game

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