Steve and I were talking yesterday (when he graciously dropped by my class to give the students a talk about real-time rendering), and we've come to see that the future for entertainment can only be minimally pioneered with better and better graphics. This is in stark contrast to a few years back when we argued fitfully, and he claimed that ultimately the graphics were 90% of the sale. Yes Steve, this is my I-told-you-so.
Anyways, the problem today is that games have better graphics, but not better visuals. Visuals here meaning the fundamentals of good art direction, like cinematography, good acting, shot composition, and that ill-defined "style." I've mentioned the Uncanny Valley before, and it's only gotten worse. We've made incredible milestones in shadowing, shading, and surfacing technology, polycounts, texture resolutions, but at the end of the day, an awkward camera angle of a stiff animation of a poorly acted Batman is is never as Batmany as Frank Miller's.
The even deeper problem is that with the novelty of graphics revolution, consumers are plucking down (often to their regret) for deteriorating sequels. They keep EA in business, and tell EA it's not profitable to make anything better than a B- game. The real innovations have suffered for it. AI/physics driven animation, adaptive AI, muscular systems, intelligent camerawork, even fucking blendshapes have, for the most part, taken the backseat to the new titans of what can only be described as "real-time Poser art." Until these changes happen, no matter how good Neo looks in a still, his wooden movement or lack of upper lip realism brings it all crashing down.
The news headlines scream about the gaming industry being bloated. Actually, it's just the opposite, except there's just nothing out there good to spend my eager money on. You know what I mean.
I look towards episodic content to save the day. I look towards the revolution it created in Cable TV quality, when you can stop paying when something starts to stink. Then the scam of the $60 game will come crashing down on developers thinking they'll sucker enough folks in for their bottomlines, all the while wondering why milking their big brands gets less profitable every year. I look towards Valve's Lost Coast as an big step in this direction. Though Valve may fail (their stories are frankly eons behind cable TV), they'll bravely open new ground for a consumer base that purchases more responsibly, perhaps enough to put an end to these Scavengers of Licenseploitation ruining games, movies, and comics all at once.