Video Game Photagonists

Photography! Taking pictures! Lots of fun. It's an activity that is rife for abuse in some magical realism-dictated video game environment, where pictures become real or something or other happens. Failing that, there's still plenty to appreciate in just having a roll of film and seeing what you can capture. I've thrown together ten games which I feel were either enhanced by some manner of photography side-quest or were entirely about the art of taking pictures.

What's surprising is that everything in this list (besides Gekisha Boy, since I'm still playing it) could well be among my favorite games of all time. All in the top 30, easily. Photography subquests aren't super common, so I wonder if I have some kind of hidden yearning for the hobby?

List items

  • Central to the game's big story beats (so to speak) are Jade's incriminating photos of the purportedly heroic Alpha Sections colluding with the antagonistic DomZ alien race that has laid siege to the planet for decades. There's also a pretty nifty nature photography side-gig Jade can get involved in for additional funds.

  • Everblue doesn't quite focus as strongly on photography as it does salvage recovery, unlike the spiritual sequel Endless Ocean, but you still spend a sizable portion of the game snapping fish in their natural habitat. Of course, once you start spotting lionfish and sharks, it's better to keep your distance. Thank Poseidon for zoom lenses.

  • The Most Terrifying Video Game Series (TM) focuses its combat engine entirely around the Camera Obscura: the proton pack of photography devices. Whoever came up with the idea that the only way to harm spooky ghosts effectively is to watch them intently until they do something scary either deserves a medal or to be committed.

  • Good lord do I love Dark Chronicle. One of the many, many sidequests in the game involves taking pictures of everything around you and using them as inspiration to create new items. Almost anything can be photographed and logged for future study, so there's lots of room for experimentation. As with DC2's half-dozen other huge side activities, it's almost a fully-fledged game unto itself.

  • Pokemon Snap probably should've been dropped at the top of the list. Given how early and often Nintendo seem keen to regurgitate old shit, and especially old shit regarding pocket monsters, it's almost a travesty we haven't yet seen an AR-enhanced 3DS Pokemon Snap update. Nintendo's already sequelizing everything else, consarn it.

  • Some weren't fond of Wind Waker's sweeping photography sidequest, taking pictures of every enemy and NPC in the game for the sake of obsessively collecting figurines, but I loved it. Just the kind of ridiculous nonsense that can pad out a game in an optional way that doesn't feel gross or pointless. Unlike, say, the Triforce Hunt.

  • Sly's reconnaissance missions always begin each chapter of the second and third games (and presumably the fourth, which I really need to play) and give you some ideas about where the rest of that area's missions are going. I don't even mind that they're stealth missions, really. Kind of felt like BG&E's sneaky shenanigans.

  • Baten Kaitos is simply one of quite a number of games (Eternal Sonata included) where a photographer character can snap enemy shots for a nice and easy means to gain some funds. Doesn't have much bearing on the rest of the game, but it's a nice enough bone to throw at players who constantly find themselves short once they hit a new town and need to splash out on new gear for everyone.

  • Occasionally the game will remember that Sly Boots is supposed to be a private eye and task him with a mission that requires a bit of furtive amateur photography. Usually, though, he just uses his camera to take pictures of bizarre things that catch his eye.

  • Another game like Baten Kaitos that has a requisite photographer (that would be Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, the one they made that Disney movie about. Yep, that one) but this game borrows a page from Final Fantasy's book in that she'll frequently learn new skills by taking shots of certain foes much like a Blue Mage.

  • Bully didn't need many more enhancements, but they threw in a pretty sweet set of photography missions anyway. Can't recall offhand if they were introduced in the enhanced edition or not (I know some classes were).

  • And now we come to the present, paradoxically with the oldest game on this list. June's TurboMento-12 game has been full of surprises so far and I love how unpredictable it is. It's rather elementary as a game, but there's a weird charm to all its lascivious jokes and goofy 80s movie references.