Going Gold

Going Gold: New Dimensions

Christian Ward | 5 May 2010 21:00
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Gaming is in fact probably more based on the "spectacle" than even movies are; the jaw-dropping spectacle is pretty much the only thing used to market games these days (think of the advertising campaigns for Modern Warfare 2, God of War 3, or Final Fantasy XIII), even though gameplay mechanics are ultimately far more important to our enjoyment of a game. How many AAA titles do you see with "controls like a dream!" as its tagline, versus how often you see the word "epic," "stunning," or "massive"?

However, the simple fact is that the graphical arms race is at a stalemate. We're well past the point of diminishing returns when it comes to graphical quality - it's no longer profitable to improve sheer graphical quality of a console to the point where it gives a clear advantage over the opposition.

This is why we're seeing the industry get behind new technologies like 3D and motion controls. It's what Nintendo realized before anybody else, and why the Wii has been such a success - a way to offer a new experience that separates a product from its competitors, without costing an arm and a leg. And it's why Nintendo is set to be the first company set to take the first bold steps into 3D gaming as a real commercial product (let's all just forget about the Virtual Boy).

The only thing that Nintendo has announced about their DS successor is that it will be playable in 3D. Given how important the DS has been to Nintendo's fortunes over the past five years, that's a huge level of trust in consumer demand for 3D technology. Of course, this is already following a familiar pattern to those within the industry.

When the DS was first announced, touch screen technology was regarded as a gimmicky addition, a technology from yesterday that had failed to really prove itself to the consumer - this was, please recall, some years before the iPhone and its multi-touch technology arrived, much less the iPad. Nintendo clearly believes that, despite the skepticism for 3D, it can be like "touch" and "motion" before it and become a technology that sells systems.

So while many, like Ebert, are dubious about 3D in the home or the theatre, or the future of motion control in gaming, in the absence of any other game-changing technologies, this is where the industry is headed.

Where are these new technologies going to take us? To return to Ebert for a moment, he notes that he "cannot imagine a serious drama" such as The Hurt Locker in 3D. This reveals more about his idea of what "serious drama" is than it reveals about 3D. Just as with his views on gaming, Ebert's idea of what "drama" should be is fixed; everything else is but a gimmick.

And this is both right and wrong. The universal tenets of "good" drama are the same whether in a movie, a book, or a story told to you by a friend. Therefore, whether the drama is enclosed in a 2D movie or a 3D one, it does not change the fact that the drama is well crafted. The rest is indeed just a gimmick - and I would argue that film, moving images themselves, are just as much a gimmick as anything else. Compelling stories can often more easily, and more eloquently, be told in prose than they can be on film.

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