Which is better: running the cameras or splashing the walls?

Our final deliberations took a bit long because I was away, but I’m now back to make it final: you’ve decided that demos are better than gibs (by a pretty close margin). You’ve chosen your favorite little bits – games, not corpses – and our quest continues. This week, we’re choosing between two forms of engagement in the reality of a game. Which is better: cameras that actually take pictures, or that run into a wall so fast you get hurt ?

Cameras that actually take pictures

If a video game lets me use a camera that ostensibly takes pictures, it should actually take pictures and save them for me to see. How wonderful this Phasmophobia ghost hunting game will save your spooky snaps, so you can prove ghosts are real (or show your friends their mangled corpses). How delicious that Yakuza games that have cameras will send you back with holiday snaps of your bewildered burly boys. How cruel that Grand Theft Auto V saves its phone photos as low-res, low-quality versions. And that’s especially good in Umurangi Generation, where you’re encouraged to get creative with lenses, framing, and filters for apocalyptic photography you might want to show off.

Firewatch went one step further and let you order real prints of your photos from fictional developer Fotodome (actually the game’s publisher, Panic). Enjoyed reading Shutter resident Pip’s thoughts on this, and why she preferred the prints she made manually from the screenshots she took over the official ones she received .

I’m always disappointed when a game makes me take pictures and doesn’t save them anywhere. Dude, you gave me a camera and told me to use it, you must know that I want to use it. I took so many mundane photos of leaky pipes, exposed wiring and crumbling concrete in Infra and I would have been thrilled if the ending echoed the beginning in having Mark do a PowerPoint presentation on all this that he discovered (with the end credits, perhaps?). It’s doubly disappointing when a game saves photos to display in an in-game album but won’t let me access them outside of the game. And I know the photos in Life Is Strange are staged rather than captured live , but I would still appreciate the touch of the game simulating it for me.

Run into a wall so fast you hurt yourself

My favorite moment in System Shock 2 – Shodan and Flesh Apart – was discovering the obvious consequences of his SpeedBoost. Hit yourself with this hypo (“popular among high schoolers for a dangerous street sport of ‘Crash Careening,'” the item description reads) and you’ll be moving at double speed for 20 seconds. Even with doubled average movement speed, you can inflict fatal damage on yourself by running into a wall, bumping into a desk, or simply climbing a step. Whether your neck snaps or you hit yourself so hard that your brain shuts down, I can’t tell. Even crouch walking can lead to a nasty injury. I think the engagement with the consequences of actions is an important and delightful part of the immersive sim genre, and I enjoy the thinking in general.

Lots of games about driving, skateboarding, cycling etc. do too, of course, but in the language of video games, that’s to be expected. I especially love when this interaction happens in places you don’t expect. While Destiny 2 won’t let you run into walls so fast you crash, I’m willing to make room for it here because of the most powerful force in its sci-fi universe: the Architects (the cute Bungie enemy tag for when physics kills you). Destiny’s undead wizards can fire bullets, break the laws of reality at will, and crush gods with firearms, but we’re helpless being thrown against a wall at high speed. I always find it nice that an enemy’s shield slam attack can send me flying into a wall strong enough to burst. It’s physics, baby, and as we know: Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son of a bitch in space.

I could take a step back and extend this thing more broadly to a physics-simulated world or something, but no, let’s stay focused: stub our toe hard.

But what is better?

I like photography. I love video game photography. But more than anything, I relish being undone by the consequences of my decisions. Crush me, baby.

Pick your own winner, vote in the poll below, make your point in the comments to convince others, and then we’ll meet again next week to see which thing wins out and keep the big contest going.

About Debra D. Johnson

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