City of digital angels

There’s food porn. There’s nature porn. Apparently there’s even porn porn, out there on what is laughingly referred to as “the internet”.

I have virtual timelapse porn.

Since video games have become less Mondrianesque (read: big pixels in primary colours) and more visually rich, more and more bloggers, game photographers and videographers have been exploring their visual appeal beyond the simplistic “Great graphics, most realistic blood splatter, coolest lens flares, 9.5/10!” (I recently posted about the YouTube project Other Places.) It’s not so much about showing that games are approaching photorealism, at least not to me; it’s about getting to a point where the worlds created by games become interesting and arresting in their own right, and where they can be explored in various creative ways.

Are time lapse videos of game locales creative? Let’s put it like this: they can be beautiful, evocative, eerily poignant. There’s more to a good time lapse video than sticking a camera, virtual or otherwise, in one place and shooting one frame per second. And some games lend themselves more to such videos than others – I’ve previously posted about such videos made from the likes of Red Dead Redemption and Assassin’s Creed. To my mind, just about the best worlds for video game photography and videography are those created by Rockstar Games, and their latest, Grand Theft Auto V, is a gorgeous case in point. Ignoring the controversy around the game for once (there are already more than enough articles out there on whether GTA V is misogynist, racist, homophobic, or even (yikes!) a bad game), I am yet again amazed at how well Rockstar can take a real place and boil it down to its essentials. Their Los Santos, while clearly a fictionalised Los Angeles, is more than a Reader’s Digest version of LA – it’s as if the Rockstar artists had taken the world’s collective dream of Los Angeles and put it into textures and polygons. To me, there’s a touch of the hyperreal, and even of Neil Gaiman’s dream of the city in Sandman, and of Calvino’s Invisible Cities (sadly Marco Polo never talked about “Virtual Cities”, but then again, each of his invisible cities is virtual), in how these places resonate, even more so when put into the format of (wait for it…) a timelapse video. They make me want to inhabit Rockstar’s dream of LA, especially at night, when the street lights shimmer through the distant haze.

Do yourselves a favour. Let the entire video download before you watch it. Go for the highest resolution. And definitely, most definitely, go for full screen. If you still don’t see at least a fraction of the fascination these have for me, I’ll spring you a drink. I know this great little bar just off Vinewood Boulevard…

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