Seldom do the wonderful worlds of video games and photography meet, but when they do, fun often ensues.
Photography has had a relatively quiet but constant presence in video games over the last two decades, usually featured in video game titles as a mini-game or bonus mode. A few incorporate photography into the main storyline.
Here’s a roundup of some of my favorite photo-related titles over the years, ranked by their incorporation of photographic elements into the gameplay.
#1. Pokémon Snap (1999)
Platform: Nintendo 64
Gotta photograph ’em all doesn’t quite sound as snappy, but Pokemon Snap is the first and arguably most successful Pokémon spinoff console-based title. Aptly named amateur photographer Todd Snap ventures through seven different landscapes, on assignment by Professor Oak to be the very best Pokemon photographer–like no one ever was.
For nostalgic gamers who want to party like it’s 1999, Pokémon Snap is now available for download on Wii’s Virtual Console.
#2. Dead Rising (2006)
Platforms: Xbox 360
Genre: Action/Survival horror
Freelance photographer Frank West is out get the scoop in a small suburban town that seems to have a slight zombie infestation. Fortunately, Frank West happens to be remarkably in shape–like most seasoned war photographers, apparently. Not only can he gain experience points as he takes unnaturally zoomed photos with what looks like a 17-35mm, Nikon D1X, West can use almost anything as a weapon: mall benches, lawn mowers, chainsaws, trash cans, other zombies–you get the picture.
#3. Fatal Frame Series (2002-2008)
Platforms: PlayStation 2, Xbox, Wii
Genre: Survival horror
The protagonist of Fatal Frame combats angry spirits of the dead with a camera while roaming around creepy environments. The gameplay is very similar to a first-person shooter game, except the main character wields an antique camera in lieu of a shotgun. Published at the onset of the digital photography era, this game pays an homage to film photography, as ammunition comes in the form of special types of film.
Fatal Frame is the first in its series, which includes Fatal Frame II, III, and a Japanese version of IV for the NintendoWii.
#4. Beyond Good and Evil (2003)
Platform: PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube
Genre: Action Adventure
Much like Frank West in Capcom’s Dead Rising, the protagonist in Beyond Good and Evil is an investigative reporter with above-average athletic prowess–she knows her martial arts. Set in a rustic future, young journalist Jade tackles the tough issues of human trafficking and propaganda, armed with her camera and a jō staff.
#5. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Developer: Treyarch, Vicarious Visions
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PSP, Wii
Even Spider-Man has bills to pay. In Spider-Man 3, freelance photojournalist Petey goes on assignment around the city, occasionally taking self-portraits. Is that ethical?
In any case, at least his thin wallet is true-to-life.
#6. Bully (2006)
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, Wii
Never had the time to take a photography course? In Rockstar’s schoolhouse adventure, Bully, a photo class is in the required curriculum. Jimmy Hopkins, the anti-hero, roams the halls of Bullworth Academy to complete his homework assignments.
#7. Metal Gear Solid (1998), Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001), and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008)
Platform: PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3
Genre: Third Person Action
Amidst Hideo Kojima’s thought-provoking storyline, an excellent soundtrack, and groundbreaking graphics, Kojima gives a nod to photography in several Metal Gear Solid titles.
Special espionage commando Solid Snake uses a camera in the Tank Hangar basement in the first Metal Gear Solid.
In MGS 2, Solid Snake and sidekick Raiden sneak stealthily around industrial settings, avoiding exclamatory guards and disabling weapons of mass destruction. Solid Snake uses a spy camera in a mission, which can be unlocked and equipped after the game is completed once.
Metal Gear Solid 4 contains a bizarre photo shoot Easter Egg. While fighting the Beauty bosses, avoid combat for three minutes and the photo shoot mode will be activated.
#8. BioShock (2007, 2008)
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Released initially for the Xbox 360 and later as a port to PlayStation 3, BioShock’s silent protagonist makes his way through a submarine 1940s dystopia that has been ravaged by the excesses of its vain, idealistic society. Along the way, he collects a research camera with which he can photograph enemies to improve fighting ability in future encounters.
Grand Theft Auto 4
Photography plays a very minor role in the gameplay of GTA 4, appearing in an assassination mission. Protagonist Niko uses a camera phone (no fancy SLR in this gritty game) to take a photo of and confirm a hit via photo messaging. How convenient!
Myst IV: Revelation
The last installment of the Myst series provides a camera for collecting clues to solve hair-pulling puzzles.
Screenshot Photography Modes, Various Titles
Other games include a photography feature, separate from the gameplay. Most recently, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves includes a screen capture, or photo mode (Visit The Sixth Axis for a screen capture forum here).
More titles with a screen capture mode include Gears of War 2, Halo 3 (for tips on capturing boast-worthy screenshots, visit Paradox460 ) and Gran Turismo 4, which has its own flickr group. Additional racing titles also have this feature, such as Forza 2, MotorStorm Pacific Rift, Wipeout HD, Tourist Trophy, and more.
Game Face Feature, EA Sports Titles
This past September, EA Sports introduced a new feature, Game Face, an upgrade of Photo Game Face, which works with games such as FIFA 10, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10, Facebreaker and Fight Night Round 4 on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. Game Face incorporates photography into character customization by letting players upload their own faces into different games as well as while creating their own avatar. The program is an interesting, though fluffy feature, akin to the PlayStation Eye and EyeToy, neither of which fared particularly well on the market. Game Face is still in its BETA stage, so we’ve yet to see whether it takes off.
We hope you enjoyed our virtual photo roundup. If you’ve got a favorite video game photo op moment, please share it with us!
Image credits: All images credited to their respective developers.