Games and movies have a chequered history, most films based on games are awful and the same applies in reverse. It seems that in this mass media driven world, populated by companies determined to make the money they invested in their game or movie back, often a few times over. Is this a good reason to make a game?
Movies and games have one thing in common, they both tell a story. The difference between them is that in a game, the player should be made to feel a part of that story, responsible for its outcome, whereas in a movie the viewer is merely an observer, unable to affect the events being portrayed.
There was a fashion in the early ’90s for what were know as ‘interactive movies’, game which used the full motion video made possible by CD technology to tell a story which involved the viewer in some way. These were linear, and often stilted affairs which failed to truly unite movies and videogames into one coherent whole. Things have moved on since then and many games can now truly be called ‘interactive movies’. Game writers and developers have taken cues from the movie industry with regard to pace, plot and characterisation and brought a level of immersion and inclusion to the players of games which the ‘interactive movies’ of the last decade were sorely lacking.
More and more we are seeing big names of the games and movie industries team up to produce games which will purport to uphold the storytelling values of the movie industry along with the active participation of games. Steven Spielberg, John Woo, and other movie luminaries are helming projects which will take the convergence of games and film to new levels. We have also seen a distressing trend in the eagerness of the big film studios to cash in on the games market with releases of games based upon their big releases, with mixed results. Many film tie-ins are lacking in an understanding of what makes a good game and are often rushed in order to bring the game to completion for the release of the movie. Instead of exploring unanswered questions asked by the film, movie games tend to go over the same plot and storyline with no greater depth and often merely serve as a vehicle to market the film.
The same works in reverse as well, games which make it big are often turned into movies, with varying degrees of success. Super Mario Brothers, Tomb Raider,Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, and Silent Hill have all had success off the back of the games they were based on while being roundly criticised as cinematic trash. And there’s more to come, Uwe Boll has some kind of fetish when it comes to video games, he’s the director responsible for theBloodrayne and Postal films (which was an awful game to begin with) and is currently working on a film adaptation of Far Cry. not only that Peter Jackson has reaffirmed his commitment to the Halo movie, which he will never be forgiven for if it turns out to be a turkey. Don’t think it’s just the obvious action titles that get the movie treatment, 20th Century Fox has already obtained the right to the Sims, and who knows how their going to make a coherent movie out of that.
Because the film and game industries are so similar, and becoming more so, it is inevitable that games will learn to use the techniques of movies, alot of the work that goes into them is essentially the same. Storyboarding, Production design, Scripting and Casting, are all older crafts in the film industry and so game developers and writers are right to learn from them. CGI is gaming’s forte, and so films will learn that from games. That being said, while the disciplines may be very similar, if not completely the same, the end product is different. As I mentioned before films are passive, games are interactive. Films make you watch the stars, games let you be the star.
The two mediums are so different they could be said to be incompatible. You can’t walk into a cinema and demand your money back because Johnny Depp wasn’t doing what you told him to, neither could you take a game back to the store because it didn’t play itself through to the end. Games of films will fail because they force the player to interact with a story they already know the end to, and don’t allow them to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Movies of games will fail because they’ll lack the immersion that the story of the game requires, you will not feel the emotional attachment to the characters which is necessary because you know that the musclebound guy on the screen should be you. The stories that games tell require the tools that games include to be told effectively, the same goes for movies. Trying to tell one’s stories with the other’s tools will always be less effective.
So to the studios and developers I say this: Tell your own stories, your own way, with the tools available to your medium. Never be lured by the almighty dollar into playing in each other’s sand pit. Its not that you don’t know what you’re doing, its that the tools are not the same and your stories will suffer.
Not that they’ll listen, but at least I’ve said it.