Photo modes are all the rage these days. Most new games come with a photo mode feature and it has led to some truly awesome examples of virtual photography on display.
Today we will be taking a look into why it is one of the coolest trends in gaming!
Video Game Worlds are beautiful!
No matter how broken or unfinished modern games are, there is one fact that is undisputed– they are beautiful. Even on lower settings, technology has progressed so far that their worlds look sublime. And while I can levy many critiques at video game programmers – the art departments usually do deliver.
A good photo mode allows gamers to celebrate these beautiful worlds and characters freely, without the need for special mods or disabling game user interfaces or the like. Not that those things are bad options too, far from it, but a good photo mode by itself is absolutely badass!
There is expression in photography – even virtual photography!
Photography is a form of art in itself. And while virtual photography is to some extent different to what we do in the real world – the same principles apply. Only the subject and how exactly we do it differ.
How and why, you take screenshots or images even in a game world is a part of your expression. From epic battle scenes, to edited character portraits, to serene shots of the game world in optimal lighting – all of these things are technically possible without a good photo mode… but are much easier and more approachable with one.
It can deepen our understanding of the games we love!
Developers go to great lengths to make sure that photo modes do not break world geometry or the game engine, but sometimes they do fail. People who experiment a lot with photo mode may get to see some of the seams holding the game worlds together. For example, odd angles may break world geometry and allow us to peer through the map or see past models or playable area limits and see some of the strings pulling the game worlds together. Maybe this is a niche thing, but I do always find it just so fascinating and educational to know how these things work.
Note: Elden Ring lacked official photo modes so modding the PC version or other camera trickery is used. It works, but it is harder!
In the past, we used to rely on nocliping, mods and cheats to see that. Honestly, that was even cooler, but a good photo mode can still give a small bit of that magic back to us. I think that has some value and we have had gamers find out cool easter eggs or secrets while using photo mode in the past.
It is an easy way to add value for communities, players, and even a game’s marketing!
Now I personally do not care much for marketing departments, but unfortunately, they are important. And they guzzle money hard. One thing that can make their job easier as well as a community’s job easier when showcasing their game is a competent photo mode. On Twitter and Reddit alone, there are digital photographers who use photo mode (and mods and photoshop too!) to take gorgeous pictures of what game worlds offer.
Game Wikis and forums may also benefit a bit from having an easier, better way to get images for their guides or posts. I mean they could do this without a photo mode, but this makes their job even easier!
There must be some cons… right?
While writing this article I wanted to find one reason, some sort of principled, logical way to be against photo mode… and I could not find one. Well, it does take some effort from the developers but that is it. No other cons exist.
This is a good trend – one thing modern games do great for sure! We must encourage it!
I really wish big engine creators like Epic would standardize some sort of process for their engines so that its even easier to add it to games. Photo modes combine well with modding tools as well. But yeah, this is one of those relatively few things in life where having it seems to be a universal gain with no real downsides, at least on the game / consumer’s end.
We should all wish for our games to have photo modes. Either on launch or added later on, both are fine. This is such a simple thing but it can just add a fair chunk of enjoyment to people who like these things. Hell, photo mode for The Witcher 3 helped me write one of my previous articles and it was a joy to work with it!
And remember – we on PC always had some sort of tools to easily capture screenshots or edit them. Some modders even have managed to create photo modes in the past. But people on consoles do not have the luxury so for them a good photo mode is even more important!
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