Art has always been a uniquely human way to capture and interpret the world around us. It acknowledges that we all have very different views, spaces we want to explore and the desire to give others the ability to see ‘through our eyes’. Ultimately, when we create art, we make our presence felt, so naturally, where we will take inspiration from the places where we are present. And today, that includes every kind of reality – including virtual worlds.
‘Virtual photography’ has taken off in a big way and capturing ‘in-game’ images feels very real to the enormous number of players who do it every day. While you might assume it’s as simple as a screenshot, the art of virtual photography has developed a high level of sophistication. Photo mode is available in an increasing number of games, The Last of Us Part 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 being two of a wealth of titles notable and highly rated for their functionality. And like all photography, working in-game requires the same attention to detail and eye for the aesthetically pleasing, as well as the ability to spot the story you want to share. Many players spend a great deal of time manoeuvring the scene, experimenting with angles, light and settings as they might when holding a physical camera. It’s also common practice to use console commands, which adjust the inherent settings of the game, such as time of day or the appearance of in-game cursors, to add, remove or adapt game elements so the shot is perfect.
Of course, the latest game graphics are phenomenal works of art in their own right, and the worlds that virtual photographers explore have previously unseen levels of scale, depth and detail. Coupled with vast and active social media communities, it makes sense that players will want to capture and share their finds in these incredible and often fantastical worlds – just as they do IRL. And as in real world photography, there is often an element of nostalgia, letting players and their communities relive their favourite experiences.