Why Videogames Want to Look Like Movies—Not Real Life

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Today's games feature stunning hyperrealism and cinematic flair.

The videogame industry overtook Hollywood years ago and games are slowly being recognized as an art form -- New York's Museum of Modern Art recently announced that it's adding several videogames to its collection. Interactive media even has its own highbrow magazine, Kill Screen, launched in 2009. In a new documentary series produced with the Creators Project, Kill Screen is looking at the artistic frontier of game creation.

In the first episode, below, the developers at Crytek, a videogame company in Frankfurt, describe their efforts to bring the visual qualities of film to their games. Working on their latest, Crysis 3, they incorporate lens flares -- a visual phenomenon we only experience in movies and photos -- and bring movement to every detail of the world in the game. "The whole thing needs to feel very alive," one developer explains. "Stuff like grass, or something, we put a lot of effort into. I can't think of another game that has this level of detail in grass!" Each green blade and weed is animated separately, programmed to bend in the breeze. 

The goal of this hyperrealism? Rasmus Hojengaard, the studio's director of creative development, says "it's modern magic. You trick people into believing a certain scenario is taking place, and you do it so convincingly that they immediately connect to it -- which I guess is escapism ... what reading, watching movies, or playing games, is about." We've come a long way from 8-bit, to be sure. 

For more videos from the Creators Project and Kill Screen, visit http://www.thecreatorsproject.com/.

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg's work in media spans documentary television, advertising, and print. As a producer in the Viewer Created Content division of Al Gore's Current TV, she acquired and produced short documentaries by independent filmmakers around the world. Post-Current, she worked as a producer and strategist at Urgent Content, developing consumer-created and branded nonfiction campaigns for clients including Cisco, Ford, and GOOD Magazine. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University, where she was co-creator and editor in chief of H BOMB Magazine.

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