For a long time computer graphics have been evolving, from the simple monochromatic graphics of Pong to the iconic art of the 8-bit generation, all the way through to today’s three-dimensional graphics of High Profile video games.
However until recently the ability to convey emotion, feelings and believable acting through this medium was if not impossible it was certainly challenging. Efforts range from good to incredibly bad. The following example was for a long time considered one of the most emotive moments in video games the death of Aeris in Final Fantasy VII.
While I will not attempt to analyze the cinematographic value of this cutscene, I will point out that the way emotion is conveyed is through a small grin and some blinking eyes which make it hard to feel truly connected to the characters when they look like cardboard tube dolls. However as we have moved forward we are starting to see truly touching scenes where technology is no longer in the way. Examples such as Half-Life 2, Uncharted and Mass Effect have brought us closer to seeing the anguish and desperation of the characters, see them cry, be startled and feel pain and loss.
However now we are truly reaching that point where the character feels real regardless of how stylized or photorealistic a character is. In Quantic Dream’s Kara, a short tech demo of their digital actors, we can see a digital character modeled after the actress Valorie Currie express a range of emotions rangin from neutral to happiness to fear and anger and be believable in expressing them not only through her face but all the subtle motions of a human body.
As we can see in this video, not only is narrative taking a marked improvement over earlier efforts, but the ability to make us feel for a character, empathize and in the end identify with them is finally reaching us. The implications are staggering. Creating digital actors to take us through interactive tours of historical sites and battles is now a possibility and museums should take notice of this growing art, both as a subject worthy of collection as film is but as a tool to connect to new generations and attract newer demographic groups.