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Playing ‘Gravity Rush 2’ as a Photographer



It’s safe to say that Project Siren’s PS4-exclusive Gravity Rush 2 is the only game I have ever played that has enabled me to incorporate my eye for photography within the game itself.

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.

Photo collage – Click for full size

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.

Photo collage – Click for full size

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.

Photo collage – Click for full size

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.

Photo collage – Click for full size

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.)

Immensely fascinated by the arts and interactive media, Maxwell N's views and opinions are backed by a vast knowledge of and passion for film, music, literature and video game history. His other endeavors and hobbies include fiction writing, creating experimental soundscapes, and photography. A Los Angeles, CA local, he currently lives with his wife and two pet potatoes/parrots in Austin, TX. He can mostly be found hanging around Twitter as @maxn_