Gaming and Photography: Investigating the Elision of Illusion and the Actual
The application of aesthetics and techniques from photography into computer generated images leads audiences to read images of a virtual space similarly to images of a physical space. This phenomenon has allowed for a continuation in the cultural fascination with photorealism, and cases of audiences mistaking images from the virtual space as ‘real’. This thesis looks in detail at how the boundaries between the virtual and physical space shift when approaching the virtual space of a video game from the perspective of a photographer, rather than a player. It looks in detail at how audiences interpret images of the virtual space of video games when displayed in a form reminiscent of art photography. Photographs of the virtual and physical spaces were produced for online surveys and an exhibition to test audience perceptions of image origin. Participants were also asked to try and distinguish photorealism in the landscape form, urban form, and material form. Technical analysis of audience responses, combined with textual analysis of the images themselves, helped in determining the types of content, as well as styles of photography that were used by the audience as indexes to reality in the virtual space. In some cases, the technical theory could explain the thought process of the participants, however in other cases there were dominant factors that more significantly impacted participant interpretations, despite what theory suggested. This highlighted the blur that is emerging between the physical and virtual spaces. There were difficulties in designing tests that could identify and isolate the elements that influenced perceptions of photorealism, due to the complex, and sometimes unexpected, ways in which people made judgments about the images. A variety of factors and areas for future research arose from the tests, including using the medium of photography to document the ever-changing landscape of the virtual space.