What Was The First Virtual Photography Mode?

Ever since the creation of the earliest photo booths, there has been a growing and enduring desire for many people to capture their lives, not only personally and professionally, but also increasingly virtually.

With the growing success of corporate photo booth hire and selfie culture helping to bring back the popular art of purikura, this desire to capture our own journeys through life has extended into virtual worlds.

Whilst there are some literal examples of virtual photo booths, one of the most notable being in the remake of the first Yakuza game, there are also several games that involve taking digital photographs of either yourself or the game environment.

Arguably the very first example of this was Gekibo: Gekisha Boy in 1992 for the PC Engine. Playing young photographer David Goldman, you need to pass eight special tests to graduate from the “LA Photography School”.

It played, in many respects, like a scrolling arcade shooting gallery, where the player had to quickly figure out what to take pictures of, which can include rather outlandish phenomena and references to popular films and television shows.

It was popular enough in Japan to get a budget rerelease in 2002 and a sequel in 2001 Gekibo 2: Tokudane Taikoku Nippon, but sadly despite a proposed worldwide release under the name Polaroid Pete, the game was cancelled.

The first game about photography to become a huge success, however, was the hit game Pokemon Snap, which used a similar scrolling mechanic to simulate a safari where the main character has to take pictures of the virtual critters in the wild.

One of the earliest games to have a dedicated photography mode as part of another game, however, was Metal Gear Solid: Integral, an updated rerelease of the highly popular 1998 game that featured a very rudimentary experience.

After this, games such as Beyond Good And Evil and Fatal Frame evolved the concept of adding photography as a fundamental part of gameplay, and eventually, this would culminate in modes such as Grand Theft Auto V’s selfie mode and Final Fantasy XV’s virtual photographer.