The Uncanny Valley gets all the press, but there is another valley nearby, a Hyperreal Valley located in the Goldilocks Zone between the discomforting and the mundane, the failed experiment and the all too familiar. In place of the awkwardness of some neural network’s syrupy, glitchy, pixel-flesh puppetry, there is the sprawling atmospheric environment of broad-geography video games, places where you can stroll and get to know not only the neighborhood but a semblance of a world.
Here are two more sequences from Cyberpunk 2077, one shot by day, the other at night, in both cases the position of the sun having nothing to do with astronomy and everything do to with a game-state variable deep in the code. In contrast with some of the others I’ve posted recently, these are motion-intensive. They aren’t records of loops shot from stationary corners. They are half-hour walks through fantastic imaginings of urban places. We don’t only hear the layered elements — traffic, conversation, machinery, advertising, etc. — but we hear them in relative position to each other, and from various vantages.
At 15:15 in the daytime video, there is a deep surge, part whale song and part industrial drone. What there is is a giant freighter hovering overhead. Then another comes into view, followed by a similar guttural utterance that veers on the atmospheric in scale. The taken-for-granted facts of the narrative are well beyond our own humdrum reality, and yet the result in the videos is disarmingly natural, very much the opposite of the Uncanny Valley. In fact, if you turn down the streaming quality to 480 on one of these and on a real-life walk around Tokyo or Manhattan, the differences would become even less recognizable.