Dead End Thrills is a website celebrating the passion and talent behind the world’s most exciting videogames. Its mission, if you can call it that, is to strip away the distractions of gameplay and provide lovingly captured snapshots of these virtual worlds and their inhabitants. I’ve compared it previously to the work of a unit stills photographer on a movie set: its job is to flatter and translate without any pretence of ownership. To provide a visual document that isn’t diminished by technology.
One thing it is not is an attempt to further the wearisome ‘games as art’ debate. Its interest is in the art that exists within what is, and always should be, an entertainment medium. It is not some bid to validate games or win approval from a mythical jury of art critics. Inspired primarily by Cinefex, its choice of games is non-discriminatory; even the worst, most rushed or underfunded games can dazzle and inspire.
The site has gone through many changes over the years, but has come to settle on its purest format to date. Images can be downloaded at high resolutions and are available upon request at extreme resolutions suitable for print, but this is not a ‘wallpaper resource’. None of these shots has been taken with that use in mind, nor should they be.
Dead End Thrills is not a ‘videogame tourism’ site, either. It sees little point in ogling videogame landmarks with a virtual Instamatic – that, after all, is the job of the game itself. Every shot has to work to some degree in isolation, and the site and its contributors discard hundreds more shots than they post. That is the challenge, the hobby, and the fun that keeps us going.
It’s also why games only tend to feature here if they allow a certain freedom of control over camera and game events. There is no Photoshopping beyond subtle tweaks to gamma common to online publishing. Games are modded where appropriate because it is gaming, not just games, that we enjoy. Downsampling (rendering at hi-res and then shrinking to improve image quality) is an essential part of the process. For all intents and purposes, though, what you see here is realtime all the time.
In many cases, capturing these games is only possible thanks to the generosity and understanding of developers who provide unlocked or early builds of their games. Failing that, if the retail version doesn’t allow shots that are worthwhile, the game doesn’t feature. Credit should also go to the hackers and modders who enjoy opening retail games up so that anyone can explore them, unlocking the full value of this expensive pastime. Dead End Thrills is dedicated to them as much as anyone.
Special mention goes to the hardware companies whose job it is to promote and further the technology of games. Seeing in this site a win-win scenario for gamers and themselves, they’ve provided equipment we couldn’t otherwise afford to crash and literally burn on a regular basis. This site is therefore powered by the alarming smells of Intel, Corsair and Nvidia. Images are hosted by the MaxCDN content delivery network.
- Duncan Harris, Editor