Just the other day, I finally gave into Garth’s four year long (albeit well-intentioned) nagging and went out and purchased The Witcher 3. I do not own a gaming PC, but I do own an Xbox One X, arguably the second best way to play this notoriously beautiful title. Upon starting it up, I was instantly enraptured with the lighting and sheer amount of environmental detail, and I could not WAIT to get some amazing screenshots for wallpapers at my work computer. When I started looking around the menu for the Photo Mode to capture these glorious moments, I was hit with a sudden, terrible realization; there isn’t one.
Let’s rewind a little bit here, because you might be wondering: “So what?” Well, over the last couple of years, I have developed an obsession with video games having a designated Photo Mode in which I can pause the game, move the camera, and perfectly capture the beauty crafted by the talented and hard-working developers. What started as a neat little feature for capturing cool landscape shots turned into a borderline neurotic obsession with capturing characters in the perfect lighting and pose. To me, it adds a whole new layer to a game and a unique way to appreciate the amount of work put into development. Rather than just blowing through a game and saying “yeah it looks great,” I now have a way to slow down the tempo, soak in the details, and capture the moment that I appreciated so greatly.
The first time I noticed this feature was when I was playing The Nathan Drake Collection on the PS4. I’m pretty sure I accidentally discovered it by pressing the wrong button – but I discovered that it was a pretty cool way to get some neat horizon shots.
As I progressed through the trilogy, I discovered that is can also be used to take stills of cinematic moments packed with action.
Later, while playing Super Mario Odyssey (a title I really didn’t expect to have such a mode), I learned that you can capture some really fun and funny moments with the characters expressions.
Moving to God of War (which didn’t launch with a Photo Mode, but had it patched in), I discovered some interesting color filters that allowed me to capture some really cool looking shots.
Playing Spider-Man, I learned that you can make characters and certain objects pop by blurring the background and changing the focus depth.
Bringing all of these together, I found immense joy in capturing the sheer amount of detail in the world of Horizon Zero Dawn.
So, upon starting up The Witcher 3, you could say I was crushed when I realized that I would not be able to use my growing tool set of “skills” (if you dare call them that) to capture Geralt in his white-haired glory. Instead, if I want to capture an image of my adventuring, I have to pause, turn the HUD off, resume, press the Xbox Home button, then take a screenshot. This does work (and it is what I was used to before discovering photo-modes), but it really limits what I am able to capture. Some lucky PC players are able to bypass this issue with Nividia’s Ansel, but even that only supports a few games and only Nvidia card-owning PC players can use it. I am willing to forgive it because The Witcher 3 is over four years old now, and I feel like this feature is far more wide-spread than it was back then, but it does still bum me out.
Looking to the future, I would love to see a Photo-Mode become a standard feature for games. Much like having a personal scrapbook of vacations or family gatherings, I love being able to go back and look at the moments I have captured and get flooded with nostalgia of playing that game again. Often, I forget a lot of a game once I’ve beaten it and moved on to another; but seeing an image that I put time into taking immediately fills my mind with the memories surrounding the moment. Having a feature like Photo-Mode is something that adds a new way for me to re-experience the games that I love without needing to play them over again. On top of that, it allows me to relive what I loved about it, so much that I stopped playing just to make sure that I can never forget it.