As a hobbyist, I made my start with film photography. Mind you, this was not intentional because, in the early-to-mid 2000s, digital cameras were still a bit expensive for a kid without access to disposable income. Older film cameras were easily available due to the consumer tech market’s slow but rising boom of digital SLRs and phone cameras, which created a decline in the average person’s interest or need for film.
I like to think that starting with film helped me establish how I view the act of taking photos. I tend to not want to shoot hundreds or thousands of photos as a consequence of the limited number of shots available in a standard roll of 35mm film. Today, even though I have a more than capable cellphone equipped with a more than capable digital camera, the idea of taking it out and snapping a picture isn’t always natural for me.
At some point, I realized that I didn’t like taking every single opportunity that presented itself in life for a potentially good photo. It prevented me from enjoying what was actually happening before my eyes. This idea goes against the typical idealized image of an avid photographer: camera in hand, attached to a strap around a shoulder or neck, glass lens for a face—but this is simply not how I see myself (especially when it comes to artistic expression of any form).
This isn’t a slight against those who do things this way, of course; in fact, I completely understand the idea of taking a lot of photos that make up a body of work in various ways, as is the case with some of my favorite artists, but it’s never been how I naturally do things.
Similarly, capturing and sharing screenshots within video games has never been easier, and that isn’t always the best thing. Consoles and controllers now come equipped with screenshot/record buttons, games feature “photo modes” that let you pause a game to take a still/screenshot from any which angle, and the instant sharing via social media of all this visual information is usually available right from the UI.
Like pulling out a phone in the middle of an intimate live music performance, this meta, out-of-the-game’s-world feature, often feels to me like an intrusion. I witness more and more gamers stopping to take screenshots instead of just sitting down and enjoying the games. I fully understand the want to take a screenshot or video of a funny moment or hilarious glitch in say, the Assassin’s Creed series, or to want to archive images of locations and items within a game as a form of post-play analysis—but pausing a game to take a screenshot (whether via a screenshot hotkey or a “photo mode” option within the game) as a ghost outside of the in-game experience is a completely different problem altogether.
Gravity Rush 2, however, is a uniquely different case. The game’s “camera mode”, launched via a simple button press within the game itself, serves as an extension to the protagonist character (Kat) in a way that, in my experience, I haven’t found other games successfully accomplish.
A camera item is, of course, nothing new when it comes to games, but its implementation here is something new. What makes using the camera in Gravity Rush 2 exceptionally enticing for someone like me is that it provides the opportunity to take photos from perspectives I can’t in real life, owing to Kat’s topsy-turvy gravity shifting powers.
The combination of this seamless integration and physical freedom not only makes taking photos in-game an actual fun part of the game, but the oxymoronic versatility brought on by the camera’s simplicity also helped me take photographs that could visually look like something I would have snapped in the real world, during my initial playthrough of the game.
I am not touting that these are the best photos I could take or represent how I want others to view what I make personally. What I am touting is that, by making a camera a simple extension of a playable character within the game itself, Gravity Rush 2 made it very natural for me to use a camera whenever I felt like it.
In many ways, the game gave me the opportunity to take photos like I do in real life, as an extension of myself, and not as an external task.
A cellphone, with its many in-built distractions, presents me with a cagamosis which tends to take me away from what I actually want to capture. I generally find there to be a disconnect and, while also understanding others may or may not share this issue, there’s comfort in knowing that Gravity Rush 2 was able to nail this element so well, while also creating an immensely enjoyable game.
(Note: All in-game pictures featured were taken by the author without visual edits outside of making collages.)