My first article with PopMatters is up right now. You can find "Photo Opportunities in Video Games" right here. I stumbled upon the topic after playing around with Afrika, a sort-of safari simulator that lets players take photos of gazelle and other various wild animals.
Some of the missions in this game are actually pretty fun. I really enjoy the idea of approaching the animals from new perspectives, trying to capture rare moments. Unfortunately, a large portion of the game is spent being railroaded to a particular location, primed and ready for just the right photo. This can make the game feel very artificial, though I still enjoy the experience.
Naturally, this got me thinking about why I was taking these photos and ideas of collection and ownership. I contemplated photography as a possessive act in which I imprison moments and subjects in time, which seems strange considering all the animals in Afrika are already imprisoned within the game disc. After awhile, the idea of taking photographs in games seemed very strange to me.
So I went to the library, dipped into film theory, and here we are. I think the article suffers from some of the problems that arise in certain film theory articles - mainly, thinking in such a distanced manner makes it hard to believe our conclusions can be true. Thinking in this way can feel unnatural. Regardless, I had fun exploring the concepts. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.
Also, if you missed Scott's article from last week on PopMatters, check it out.