Appropriate Levels of Realism
Clive Thompson brings his usual insight to bear on the topic of the Uncanny Valley in Xbox 360 launch titles in this recent Wired News article. What got me thinking is his reference to the manga/anime techique of juxtaposing realistic surroundings with iconic or even cartoonish characters. In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud references this same style and even goes as far as to describe how it influences our empathy with the characters. The more iconic the depiction of a character, the easier it is for the reader (or player, in game terms) to identify with that character. The reverse is also true. The more realistic the rendering of a person, place, or object, the easier it is for the reader/player to objectify.
Thompson references the Xbox 360 title Kameo as an example of this sort of thing in action. I wonder if other games (or perhaps all games to varying extents) consciously use this technique to enhance a player's immersion in the game.