When one thinks of the leaders in computer animation, a few familiar film studios come to mind, namely DreamWorks and Pixar.
Traditional movie companies like Fox and Warner Bros. have also made successful forays into animated fare.
Video games, however, have rarely been known for the artistry of their animation, for two reasons.
First, while they almost inevitably fall short, most video games of any genre try to look realistic - realistic cars, realistic football players, even plausibly "realistic" dragons and aliens.
But what defines great animated characters like Mickey Mouse and Shrek is not any notion of realism, but rather an exaggerated yet unthreatening expressiveness. That is one reason so few of the classic animated characters are human: anthropomorphized animals give the artist much more creative leeway.
Just as important, in those cases when designers have gone for an animated look, technology has simply not allowed games to come anywhere near the fluidity, detail and depth possible in a noninteractive film. Not to mention that game companies often undermine even brilliant graphics with lackluster voice acting.
All that changed this month with the release of Insomniac Games' "Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction" for Sony's PlayStation 3 console. The new "Ratchet" is a watershed for gaming because it provides the first interactive entertainment experience that truly feels like inhabiting a world-class animated film.