I Can't Stop Looking at This Low Poly Rat With a Desert Eagle

It's not that photorealism is bad, it's just one art style out of many. Unfortunately, for big budget splashy video games, it's the only art style you're likely to encounter.
December 9, 2020, 6:34pm
A beautiful low poly rat with a desert eagle.
Image Source: Low Poly Animals

Chasing photorealism in games is a fool's errand. All you have to do to prove that is look at the Twitter account Low Poly Animals.

Not to sound like the guy who sold you weed in high school but, ever notice how many pores video game characters have? Whenever I play a big budget, tentpole game like Jed: Fallen Order or Spider-Man: Miles Morales I can't stop looking at the amount of pores that I can see on characters' faces. Given how many tinctures and creams I apply to my face to make my pores appear smaller, I've never been able to figure out why pores on a face become a marker of high fidelity. I can't see pores on people's faces with my own eyeballs. It doesn't feel all that realistic to be able to see all of Miles Morales's.

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Compare the distraction of pores to the simplicity of this shark from the Twitter account Low Poly Animals. It is perfect. You know it's a shark. More than that, it's stylized design tells you a little bit about the world this shark inhabits. This shark from Mario Party 4 looks like he's starring in a movie that the MPAA will rate PG for cartoon violence.


It's not that photorealism is bad, it's just one art style out of many. Unfortunately, for big budget splashy video games, it's the only art style you're likely to encounter. Rather than bringing me into their worlds, the graphics just slide off my eyeballs. We have pushed video game graphics incredibly far since 2002, when the above shark made an appearance in Mario Party 4 for the Gamecube. It's an incredible technical achievement. I just don't think, for example, that a rendering of a real mouse holding a photorealistic Desert Eagle would be as arresting or interesting as this collection of squares from Max Payne.


Looking at these animals, you can tell how much the suggestion of a thing allows our brains to fill in the blanks for us. This seagull looks exactly like an animated version of a child's drawing, but that's all that we actually need. We know that this is a seagull, I can hear it squawking and want to guard my fries from it. It doesn't need individual feathers, or legs, or even a beak. Art doesn't need to be realistic to be believed.