“A War Photographer Embeds Himself Inside a Video Game”

Ashley Gilbertson for TIME

The Last of Us Remastered is a post-apocalyptic video game released earlier this year on PlayStation 4 with an in-game Photo Mode, which freezes the game and lets players shoot, edit and share photographs of their achievements.

TIME assigned conflict photographer Ashley Gilbertson to use the Photo Mode to document the game’s protagonists as they fight to survive in a zombie-infested world. Gilbertson writes about his experience.

It is interesting to see how the photographer talks about his experience and comparison to irl war photography practice:

My approach with The Last of Us Remastered was to enter each situation, or level, and work the scene until I was confident I’d gotten the best photograph I could before moving on. It’s the same way I work in real life. Yet, I found it was more difficult to do in a virtual reality because I was expected to fight my way through these levels to get to the next situations. That involved chopping off people’s heads, shooting them point blank in the face or throwing bombs near them. If I failed, I’d have my neck bitten, with blood exploding from my jugular in some pseudo-sexual zombie move, forcing me to restart the level.

I initially played the game at home. But after a short time playing it, I noticed I was having very strong reactions in regards to my role as the protagonist: I hated it. When I covered real war, I did so with a camera, not a gun. At home, I’d play for 30 minutes before noticing I had knots in my stomach, that my vision blurred, and then eventually, that I had simply crashed out. I felt like this could well be my last assignment for TIME.

and he eventually detached playing from photographing by ‘outsourcing’ playing:

So, I moved to the TIME offices where Josh Raab, a contributing photo editor at Time.com and a former gamer, could take the controls and fight his way through the different stages for me. Josh developed a particular style of clearing levels – sneaking up on infected people, strangling them for a while and then stabbing them in the neck. I’d then retake the controls, letting me act more like a photographer. That’s when I started to make better images – the whole experience resembled an actual embed, with someone doing the fighting and me taking photographs.

link to the article: http://time.com/3393418/a-war-photographer-embeds-himself-inside-a-video-game/


26/5/2015 – EDIT: Adi Roberston on The Verge comments on Gilbertson’s in-game photos, highlighting the difference between the photographer’s traditional images and the photos captured within the game.

But the photos? The photos, even at their most dramatic and well-shot, are bland.

Games have certainly included diaries or personal effects from dead enemies for dramatic purposes. But if they choose not to, you can’t look up a character’s parents in a phone book. Virtual people are never going to give you a “behind the scenes” look at their lives. You can’t humanize somebody who doesn’t exist.

Link to the article “An award-winning war photographer futilely attempts video game photojournalism”: http://www.theverge.com/2014/9/15/6152329/an-award-winning-war-photographer-futilely-attempts-video-game-photojournalism


More reaction from Kill Screen’s Zed Tan who writes about the project criticising the “misunderstanding that typically comes out of traditional media outlets attempting to import their practices and modes of production into a medium that it does not particularly lend itself to”.

the relationship between traditional (journalistic and otherwise) media and videogames is not one where each can simply plug-and-play into the other. Building an experience that makes sense when dealing with meshing “real” and videogame worlds needs to be carefully done.

Instead of treating videogames as a medium merely mimics the way our world works, we should be trying to reach a new understanding of videogames. Alexander R. Galloway, videogames scholar, proposes that “[i]f photographs are images, and films are moving images, then videogames are actions.”

Link to the article “WHAT TIME GOT WRONG ABOUT THE LAST OF US”: http://killscreendaily.com/articles/what-time-got-wrong-about-last-us/

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