The rising popularity of photo mode*
*Photo mode – an option that allows for the ability to take in-game pictures.
Usually, a photo mode will offer options such as depth of field, zoom, filters, exposure etc just like a real camera or camera app. Simple photo modes will most likely just offer a way to pause the game, hide the hud and other on-screen information and offer simplified options, such as just being able move the ‘camera’ and zoom in or out. Over the years games including a photo mode has steadily risen and games such as Horizon Zero Dawn have become acclaimed for its brilliant photo mode.
In fact, Far Cry 5 is a great example of a game that has, since being released, added a photo mode. We could argue that the outcry from the community asking for it to be added made it happen. (I have no idea if adding a photo mode was always on the table for the game, and it just took a while to get it sorted, but before the official photo mode was added, people were taking advantage of the binocular option that would take away all the screen noise. Also ‘outcry’ may be a bit dramatic.)
Only 4 reasons?
So I’ve thought long and hard about why all games should have a photo mode, as I guess it is a bit of a big statement to, well, state, and I think I have come up with 4 reasons that answer the ‘why?’ quite thoroughly.
Why should game makers (by this I mean the devs, the publishers, producers of the small or large studio etc etc) bother to include a photo mode to their game; whether that game be big or small, 2D or 3D or VR, a fighter or a single player?
Now, 4 reasons might not seem like a lot, but I feel that these are important reasons, and of course they do overlap slightly and there may be a really obvious reason I have totally forgotten about or overlooked – so please let me know your thoughts about this!
Why ALL games?
I need to acknowledge here that I do not work in the gaming field (fingers crossed one day I will! That’s the dream) and I am not a coder or very technical in that aspect, so I cannot pretend to know how difficult or perhaps easy it is to just add a photo mode. Obviously, I can guess that it also depends on who is actually making the game in terms of team size, expertise, MONEY; all these factors and a few more will have an impact.
With that said, when I say ALL games, I do really mean it. All. No matter the genre or the system/s it is on, from consoles to mobile. I believe there are options for any team type and for any type of game. Take TapTapFish (this is a link to their Twitter page, but I must warn you, the game is addictive!) as a great mobile game example, they have included a camera so that you can take pics of your aquarium! Also, they hold picture competitions (which will lead into a few of my points below), so it is a kind of win-win for the player, who can take cute pics of their favourite fishes, and the game makers, who can build a community around this feature and gain some promotion.
Genre of game I admit may be a bit more difficult. Most would probably argue that having a standard photo mode in say League of Legends would make no sense. And it doesn’t, you cannot pause mid game because it is a fast action, team game and it would be annoying to pause every two minutes, so very annoying…BUT there are ways around that. Take Fortnite for instance. Earlier this year, I believe, not completely sure of when exactly, a game update included a replay mode. I currently do not play Fortnite, but I have seen how replay works and have seen pictures and it looks like a really great system. Really cool actually. A player can go back through their gameplay and the controls will let them go back and forth through time, take pictures (obs!) and videos. So no awkward pausing during the actual gameplay, it is all done post game.
Basically, there are workarounds.
The 4 Reasons…
So here are my 4 reasons why game devs and publishers etc should at least think about including a photo mode (to already released games and to new ones), if they aren’t already of course.
A good photo mode;
- Builds community
- Creates creativity
- Adds to experience, and lastly,
- Promotion! Promotion! Promotion!
I go into a bit more detail for each below…
As per my last blog post, which you can find here, community is very important to the gaming environment in so many different ways. This does not just mean, like my Twitter blog post focuses on, a community solely around the gametography* hobby but communities also centre around the game itself and/or the studio and game developers can leverage this (in a good way I mean). It is another way in which people can connect with others who love the same game.
*Gametography; the blending of game and photography. I did not make this word up! Wish I had done though.
What is nice is that many developers are actually very hands on with their community and will like, comment and retweet pictures that they indeed like. They will take the time to organise competitions, such as the recent God of War one by Santa Monica Studios, who used pictures from the community on the webpage that outlined the competition, you can find that page here.
Gamers can find each other via a shared interest; maybe they are not very good at Fortnite but want to have a bit of fun and then get to take some pictures after? Well, you have that option and then can share it. Communities can have a great impact on a game [or, of course, a not so good impact, but I am not going to go into that with this blog post, I would rather stay positive] and this is another outlet for connecting people.
Just go and take a look at some of these hashtags via Twitter; #virtualphotography or #gamephotography or #photomode or #gametography. Pretty much instantly can you find a whole bunch of creative people and creative ways in which they have used photo mode to take a picture from the game they were playing.
I would say that creativity is not a one way street; it evolves, it branches out and inspires others. The game inspires the gametographer*, the picture inspires the devs or an artist or a content creator…and vice versa, it never ends.
*Gametographer – someone who partakes in the hobby of gametography. A name that I have used more and more to describe myself.
Gaming, I would argue, is one of the most creative fields and being able to explore creativity and experiment is a great way of creating even more creativity.
Adding to the experience
Being creative kind of leads into the whole ‘adding to the experience‘ of playing games. Only recently have I been a continual gamer; by which I mean, over the years I have owned various consoles and gaming systems. Many of which I had gotten rid of for various reasons, and there would be long breaks in my gaming activity between owning these gaming systems. Yet, I have always enjoyed playing games, including board games (but I guess that’s a whole other post!), but I would say personally it has been the uncovering of the photo mode option that has taken my love for gaming to the next level. Personally, I love documenting things, so using photo mode to document my gaming journey (hence this blog) is a great outlet for me and a way to share my experience and appreciation for games.
What is great is that this will be different for each and every person. I can only really talk about this reason from my personal point of view. Many people will only use photo mode every so often; perhaps to prove to a mate that they did indeed get the head shot or get to the final boss fight, or even finding interesting things like a glitch! Others are lucky enough to have this as their actual job. Whatever reason, it all adds up and expands the gaming experience.
Promotion! Promotion! Promotion!
Now I am no marketing student, however, building community and allowing for creativity surely is a good thing regarding promoting the game? Or no?
For example, I would have gotten the game eventually, but after seeing some great pictures from those who were playing God of War I couldn’t wait much longer and just had to have it. So I bought it.
Even smaller game studios can take advantage of adding a photo mode. Another example, I was actually watching a streamer on Twitch play Everspace, which made me get the game. I then posted some pictures on my Twitter and had a few people who showed interest in the game – which was fantastic! (As of writing this, I have yet to finish Everspace, but I plan on getting back into it soonish!) I hope that those people who saw my pictures and asked me about the game did go onto to buying it or will do in the future…and then they might post pictures and get someone ask them about the game……(you see what point I’m trying to make right!?)
Promoting and marketing I know isn’t cheap, god only knows how much the big budget companies spend on it. Although, usually what images you see of the game have been polished and they look like marketing material – which is good, I’m not saying that this should not be done. However, given the advent of Twitch and YouTube perhaps it is easier in terms of getting actual, real gameplay of your game out there. Especially for smaller game devs, so when you have a community taking pictures and putting them out there on Twitter and Instagram, and like what happened to me get asked about said game, that is surely a bonus. For the developers I guess. I know there is a fine line between doing work and getting paid for it and not getting paid, but I genuinely liked Everspace and wanted to show it off.
Photo mode adds the promotion aspect, from those who are playing the game in that moment, and this reason alone should be a real incentive to add it.
So as I’ve said, these are the 4 reasons that I (personally) believe make up the core reasons as to why photo mode should become commonplace for games. What I would also like to reiterate is that I am not a game maker; I do not know the technical aspects of adding a photo mode to a game, therefore I do not really know how hard or easy it is. I understand this, but there are plenty of examples of different scales of photo mode; from the more complex, such as Assassin’s Creed: Origin’s, to the more simple (but still more effective than just ‘screenshotting’) like what Everspace has to offer. And just like a game itself, a photo mode I’m pretty sure could be worked on and improved/updated as and when needed.
Maybe I’m selfish because I’ve found a great hobby and want every game that I play to offer me a photo mode; but I honestly think that most developers are becoming wiser to the benefits that a photo mode can offer in terms of building a community around a game, experiencing the creativity that gamers and gametographers can offer, adding to the overall experience and promoting the game. Therefore, I feel all game developers/makers, whether it be for console, handheld, PC or mobile, should be seriously thinking about adding a photo mode option. As I have said a few times throughout, I really feel like it is a win-win between those who love to be creative, and add to their experience of gaming, and the devs, who also love to be creative, that make the games.
Thanks for reading, I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter…It would also be great to hear from actual game developers, I would love to write a blog post about the actual technical aspects of creating a photo mode, so if you are interested in talking to me, just give me a DM!