Throughout my childhood, I remember always wanting to step on my shadow, or wonder why objects could have several shadows at once, objects that cast some shadows that are darker than others. Though light plays an equal role in our lives as shadow, I feel shadow doesn’t get enough recognition, especially through conversation. In media, such as cartoons or action movies, both light and shadow play a role in making a scene or setting more realistic and immersive to the public eye. Without the sense of seeing both light and shadow, the world would be a dangerous place: We wouldn’t be able to see danger ahead of us without light, and we wouldn’t be able to tell if we are above or on a surface if it wasn’t for shadow.
This is a picture from the movie Wall-E, which shows how the scene is made much more immersive by adding light showing from the surface of the water through to the underwater.
In the book Elemental Philosophy, David Macauley brings up some interesting points regarding both light and shadow. One of the two ideas that he brings up that interest me the most is about how light is conveyed in religion. Examples, such as how Christians portray the Lord as “the light of this world” and how Buddhist’s Counsel: “Be a lamp unto yourself”. These ideas remind me of how once we die, we see a bright light and start to walk toward it, soon able to realize the ultimate truth of the after life. This brings me to the second idea I like that Macauley brings up: how we connotate brightness with intelligence. It is interesting how we call someone “bright” if they are smart and “dull” if they are not as smart. It interests me how bright someone can be knowing not only about our world, but also of the world in the after life.
Personally, I am starting to notice how much both light and dark play a key role in media, especially videogames. They are not only used to show which side of the story is good or evil, but also is used to immerse the player more into the game in several ways. For example, the game Destiny has you play as a Guardian of the last safe City on Earth, fighting off the several races of alien enemies – who are known as the Darkness – while ranking up your character by gaining motes of light, which power your gear and stats up. Moving on to the immersion factor in games, both light and shadow give the player a more realistic view of the game, even if it is a cartoon game such as Mario Bros. In first person shooter titles, such as Doom or Wolfenstein: 3D, which have competitive online play, designers of the games include players to have shadows for several reasons: It makes the player feel like he’s/she’s actually the character they are playing as; a player can tell if another player is around the croner of a wall by seeing their shadow; it gives the map or level more depth and accessibility, which ultimately give players more freedom to explore the game. In the critically acclaimed franchise Halo, there are seven halo rings that rotate in several different areas in our galaxy. Though they are bright and glorious to behold, if turned on, they will destroy all sentient life throughout the galaxy. This idea teaches us that no matter how awesome or brilliant something may seem, there is always a chance that it can be dangerous, or simply have a downside. In Super Mario 64, the designers of the game give Mario a shadow for the first time. This is because it is the first game in which Mario is in a 3D world, so the player might have a harder time realizing exactly where they are. This not only aids the player, especially in a 3D platformer game, but also makes both Mario and his surroundings seem more realistic than ever. Without the shadow of Mario, the game could have been a colossal failure.
This is a picture taken from the game Super Mario 64, which shows how the player can tell where he/she is at all times even when jumping because they have a shadow right under them.