So that’s what it’s called…

The uncanny valley. It’s that feeling of disconnection to a computer-generated character that is human-like, but not human enough. That’s why I don’t like The Polar Express (well, one of the reasons). That’s why I could only watch 5 minutes of Monster House. The CGI characters are close to human, but not human enough. The term comes up in this WoW Insider post and it explains a lot, at least for my own inclinations in gaming. For instance, I did some beta playing for LOTRO but couldn’t connect to it. It’s got the awesome storyline (of course). The UI is nice. The graphics are great, very smooth and appealing, but the characters: there was something about them that felt off, and I think this “uncanny valley” concept is it. WoW has something of a graphic novel look to it, somewhat cartoonish, bright, basic hues (and these observations are not my own, by the way; I’ve gleaned them from elsewhere, but they do articulate my thoughts). And for the longest time I was unable to roll a human character because again: it felt “off.” (I finally did, but rolled a female so I suppose that obfuscates the self-identification of rolling a male human.) All the other characters possess such a fantastic and non-human appearance that they don’t produce the uncanny effect. At the same time, they are anthropomorphic enough to empathize with (well, maybe not the trolls :P); they have human qualities but don’t produce that disconcerting uncanniness.


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