According to my in-game diary, I’ve spent just over 68 days in Afrika’s, err, Africa but in actuality it’s been much longer. As I’m sure you’re aware if you listen to our podcast, I’ve been playing Afrika since November when I gave up trying to find it in a store and bought it from Amazon. At first I was disappointed to realize it’s not much of an exploration or adventure game with only five moderately-sized, mostly flat areas filled with a slowly increasing array of virtual animals walking through their canned animations. Then, as I began unlocking new cameras and lenses, I finally realized that Afrika is more of a photography sim than anything else.
Switching to Manual Mode via the same interface you’ve probably seen on your own digital camera, every function of these increasingly expensive (and naturally Sony branded) DSLRs is at your fingertips. Shutter speed, aperture, exposure, even the Review Delay that keeps the last photo you snapped on-screen for a second can be fiddled with depending on just how hard you want the game to be. Even with 90% of the equipment unlocked I’m having a challenging enough time getting quality shots in Auto Mode which basically means Point ‘n Shoot. I adjust the exposure around sunset and I’ve ashamedly taken to using the “Vivid” visual effect because it amps up the contrast and colors without having to spend hours in Manual Mode.
As wide as the uncanny valley may be in Afrika with animals that really don’t do anything, I still find myself taking photos the same way I would in real life. Even having criss-crossed these five locales dozens of times I still stop and take photos that have nothing to do with an assignment. Stupid closeups, awkward vertical shots, lens flares. Those are my specialties and for the most part they come out looking just like photos I’ve taken at zoos we’ve been to. Most of these I delete once I get back to camp since the game can only hold 200 shots, but some of the ones I’ve saved have turned out to be the subject of new assignments. I get the e-mail request for a photo of a White Rhino and its baby and, bam, I turn right around and send a reply, See: Attachment!
Even outside of the rigid “Big Game” events, Afrika is a highly scripted experience but there’s just enough freedom and personal interpretation that it continues to drag me back again and again. It definitely feels like a grind after a few hours and I have to stop for a while (sometimes you really have to sit around and just wait for animals to show up), but three months in I’m still committed to seeing this through. I’ll stop here because not even I want to read 1,000 words about Afrika all at once. Look for another Field Report to be filed soon.