Part of the charm of video games as a medium is how much investment we get as players. You avenge the Baby Metroid that sacrificed its life for you, you keep your troops alive through the Second Europan War, and you lead a ragtag group of reluctant interstellar heroes through thick and thin.
Why you ungrateful motherf--
But for 2K Games lead Christoph Hartmann, great moments and characters aren't enough. According to him, games just don't have the visuals necessary to really move players.
"Recreating a Mission Impossible experience in gaming is easy; recreating emotions in Brokeback Mountain is going to be tough, or at least very sensitive in this country ... it will be very hard to create very deep emotions like sadness or love, things that drive the movies.
"Until games are photorealistic, it'll be very hard to open up to new genres. We can really only focus on action and shooter titles; those are suitable for consoles now.
"To dramatically change the industry to where we can insert a whole range of emotions, I feel it will only happen when we reach the point that games are photorealistic; then we will have reached an endpoint and that might be the final console."
Right, so... all those excellent games from the last fifty years of video game history just don't count any more? All the great funny, inspiring, heartbreaking or cathartic moments we had playing games just didn't matter because they lacked photorealistic graphics? Here, some important moments in games that didn't need photorealism--watch your step for spoilers:
And that's just for starters!
Games that push the graphical frontier at the expense of everything else often severely lack in the most important area: writing. I'm not talking about plot--Final Fantasy XIII had an interesting plot, but its writing was mired in its own made-up vocabulary with a cast full of almost universally-reviled characters. Heavy Rain pushed the limits of the PlayStation 3, and yet it was a sloppy, contrived mess of a story that wasn't even fun to play.
Having great, likeable characters and engaging dialogue is what really makes a game stick with you, and even then it's not 100% necessary--Super Metroid has maybe three lines of dialogue in the whole game, but is able to show a great story instead of telling, mainly through its oppressive atmosphere.
To top it off, there's these things called books that most of the time have no visuals. So, uh... we all know where I stand on this issue, but what about you? Do you feel that video games need photorealistic graphics to further emotional involvement in video games?