Chatter is rising today about a lovingly put together rant over at The -Minus World discussing the most awful examples of games based stock photography. It’s a 30 odd pic mashup of wide-eyed yuppies in nice shirts,  irritatingly punchable children and endless beautiful women holding third party controllers like they are a family member’s knob … and so on. As one commenter pointed out, this is a situation that plagues all industries:

” I too am a graphic / web designer and I swear to god I get so sick of the stock cliches…it applies to all genres.

I do a lot of business sites so I get to deal with “Happy Customer Service Rep Girl with a Headset On” or “Board Room Meeting with All Politically Correct Parties Represented – Young Guy, Old Guy, Black Guy, Hispanic Guy, Asian Girl, White Girl…” I can’t believe I actually have to pay money for them!”

After a few moments thought I think we can quite happily blame PR and marketing for this one. I can’t think of any reason why somebody in the games industry would want to use one of these shots. We don’t need them to market our products, they are just there to illustrate games to a wider audience. Strangely, the wider audience for games usually consists of angry tabloid readers warming up for a flaming torch-lit rally against chavs… so they don’t need those images either.

Perhaps simply blaming PR and marketing is wrong. I’m going to sit this one down squarely in the Nintendo camp. Their insistence in making fist fulls of yen selling Wii’s to morons aching for the Karaoke machine of the 21st century is to be massively applauded. Their use of pretty girls chatting about T-Shirts on animal crossing is a direct link to the dumb animals you seen gawping at each other in these still shots. And here’s the problem; still shots of gaming son’t work. When you’re sitting playing a game it’s not exactly ann interesting site… I’ve even been known to dribble. You get the odd moment of leaning into a corner, ducking a shell or laughing at a friend’s own goal and, as Nintendo has proved, watching people have fun is as pleasurable as seeing a baby laugh but only when you’re actually seeing it happen. You simply cannot capture gaming in a picture without it either looking dull or embarrassingly lame.

I look forward to the first PR team to put out a mini-campaign, targeted at the bloggers out there, promoting their hardcore title as a lifestyle chump-fest. A flash based “ring everything on this picture that makes you want to be sick” viral would work nicely thanks very much. People laughing at nothing (check), consoles unplugged (check), fist-pumping twats (check).

Photographers will need to think very hard about how people look when they are playing games even though Nintendo’s ads look perfectly realistic on the whole. The DS ads are a little shaky, but watching the Redknapps play on their Wii makes me feel like I’m in the house with them before dissapearing upstairs to take a souveneir from Louise’s bedroom. Bottom line… take photos of people actually playing games, don’t tell them to high-five, shout “yay!” or look attractive. Then it’ll all be fine.