Don’t leave beauty like this to chance.
I have been working a lot on games lately, revisiting them and examining the varying ways that they’ve been approached. Each step of the way I’m amazed at the comparisons that can be made between nearly every creative endeavour. When I was reading through the post-mortem examinations of Horizon: Zero Dawn, I was struck by their approach using what they called “hyperrealism”.
To paraphrase, hyperrealism, in this instance, was a game design ethos that ensured that each step of the way they were creating and providing the best version of the story that they could. Every time you went over a rise, for example, the sun would be hitting in the optimal way, ensured after multiple passes of testing and development. It goes on, and explains the process that the entire team used to create a hyperrealistic experience – an experience that was above and better than reality.
It struck me in many ways that this is similar to the goals of writing. When you create a story, you’re trying to create an experience that is “more true” than reality. Sure, in many circumstances people may not talk the way that they do in a television show, a novel, or even a movie. The way they speak, the ways that they act, are meant to evoke this sense of hyperrealism, that everything is almost super condensed into an icon or other process so that it can do and say more. Event he lens with which we approach a specific narrative is part of this process; determining when we are going to tell the story, and the bounds of it.
Look at this shot – it’s almost too perfect.
The creators argued that they were aiming for what they called BBC-Realism: that there may be something to each shot being absolutely perfect. The sun is always at the absolute perfect angle in every shot, providing us something that could never happen in reality, but is still somehow “true”.
In their words, it wasn’t about turning everything up to 11, but rather in ensuring that everything that existed was a 9.5 or better. In many ways this is the same ethos that novelists and writers approach their work with as well. We remove everything that isn’t good enough, that doesn’t absolutely serve the story. For Horizon: that was conveying a sense of the epic, of awe. Ensuring that everything in existence of the world of the game serves a singular vision and purpose. Our own world isn’t that simplistic, but in developing and portraying the system in such a way, it ensures that the story, that the game, that the creation is better than a real comparison.
Even this draws from an artistic approach of creating paintings and other pieces of artwork that are almost “too real”, using that to say its own set of things through art. Borrowing these lenses and approaches, learning from other artforms, is integral to ensuring that we’re accomplishing bigger things, and making the best projects possible.