That Jar Jar Problem, again

GameSpot has an article up on the Uncanny Valley — that problem where robots, or in this case graphics, get so realistic that they start being creepy because they’re still not real enough. When it comes to movies and video games, I’ve dubbed this “The Jar Jar Problem,” after a certain awful Gungan who ruined Star Wars.

GameSpot talks to a researcher who’s confident the problem can be solved. But I don’t think it can be solved head-on anytime soon; the technology isn’t there yet. As Slate’s Edward Jay Epstein found, movies are still years away from being able to create realistic CGI people.

That doesn’t mean video games should stop using human characters. But I think at some point it becomes a waste trying to render them fully realisticially. Better to make them a little cartoony or stylized and focus on making the movements and physics real, rather than the whole package. I think that’s why the next wave of Xbox 360 games — led by Gears of War and Lost Planet — are looking so good. The characters aren’t perfect stand-ins for real people, but they still look more realistic than just about any other game. It’s a different kind of realism, is all.

— July 10, 2006

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