Film Effects in Video Games: A Cinematic Tool or an Artistic Statement?

Sriram Hemanth Kumar
2 min readDec 10, 2023

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One trend that stands out is visual effects that mimic the imperfections of cameras. But why are game designers incorporating these seemingly flawed visual elements into their high-tech creations?

The Art of Imperfection
These effects once considered errors in analog film and photography, have taken on new meaning in the context of digital art. What was seen as bothering distortion now gets interpreted as artifacts that bring depth and authenticity. Much like an old film reel showing signs of age, artifacts like chromatic aberration tug at our nostalgia while making the virtual content seem more grounded in reality. This embrace of imperfection imbues game visuals with character that the clinical perfection of CGI lacks.

By Stan Zurek — Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=923955

The Cinematic Appeal
Of course, the pursuit of realism and emotional impact has led developers to draw heavily from the language of film. Effects like lens flare and vignetting help transport players into game worlds that move and feel like interactive movies. Much like movies use lens effects to set tone and atmosphere, games leverage these to infuse digital scenes with mood and meaning. Their cinematic inspiration shines through.

The Creative Power of Game Developers
Yet comparing games to passive film undersells the creative possibilities exclusive to the interactive medium. Developers wield god-like influence over every pixel within imaginative virtual worlds limited only by imagination and processing power. With no physical cameras or lenses, the inclusion of artifact effects emerges less from technical limitations than an artistic choice. This distinction gives lens distortions an entirely different meaning than in traditional cinema.

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