Image Makers

Playboy to have naked video game characters in October issue.

Gamers prefer date with Lara Croft over Jordan.

The question that ought to be raised here is not what Playboy will run as a pictorial next month, but rather what they (or their competitors) might be doing regularly next decade (or two).

When people talk about virtual reality, they tend to think in terms of some real-life Startrek holodeck.

What we’ve actually gotten are slightly sentient cartoons. This is not to knock the cartoon-makers; it just goes to show how hard virtual reality (in the strict sense of not being easily distinguishable from the real thing) is to do.

Yes, Hollywood can put somewhat realistic group effects on firm, but just a series of noninteractive images takes massive computing power, and the “real” Lara Croft won’t be replacing Angelina Jolie in the movies anytime soon.

No, the beginnings of “true” virtual reality are likely to be far more modest, and they are most likely to start in the Playboy or beyond arena.

Why? Four big reasons:

  • Creating a photorealistic still image is by far the simplest and easiest VR task.
  • Because of this, CG still images are likely to become more economical than photographing human models before any other CG activity.
  • Unlike human models, CG images are very easily manipulable.

    and finally, perhaps the most important reason of all:

  • in the eye of the vast majority of beholders, human models no more “real” than a CG model. In pornography, image is not everything; it’s the only thing.

    In that poll mentioned above, what no doubt was going on in the mind of those gamers was not a comparison between a fake and a real being; it was a comparison between two images, and the connotations slapped onto those images.

    Indeed, ironically, a big reason why the gamers would likely tell you they chose Lara Croft was because of her great personality compared to the competition’s.

    Think about that for a moment.

    Besides the financial advantages, CG-models have a number of other inherent advantages over human models. They don’t come with inherent imperfections, they never get tired or bored or uncooperative, they never age, they never catch diseases (well, yes, they can get viruses, but show me Norton AntiVirus for Humans), there can be no complaints from anyone that they’re being exploited.

    Modifying them is a whole lot easier, too. Indeed, there’s little reason why they can’t eventually be modified by each and every viewer. Try doing that with a human model.

    So Why Hasn’t It Happened Yet?

    Why has Hollywood gone over to a ton of CG-imagery? They’ve done so because CG imagery is a lot cheaper than hiring a ton of people to do the same thing. The real motivation is economic.

    The same will be true with pornography. The initial photo-realistic efforts will be expensive and not-so-good, and will likely be found in specialist niches. Once the economics and results get better, the humanoids have one trump card to play, they can work for less. Indeed, like some multinational corporation, pornography is heading towards less-economically developed areas of the world for their subjects. Amateurs are flooding the world (or at least the Internet) with their efforts, too.

    This could postpone the coming of the milennium for a while. But eventually, it will come. First, for stills. Later, for motion.

    And what happens in the less-reputable areas first will seep into the mainstream. Voyeur today, Vogue tomorrow. Same situation, more clothes.

    But then again, if there’s a problem, isn’t the problem with the activities themselves rather than who or what does them? Haven’t we already dehumanized the activity? If that’s the case, is it any worse, or even different when you dehumanize the players?


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