Just before the actors take the stage for the play within Hamlet, the young prince reminds them that the purpose of theater is to hold a “mirror up to nature.” Shakespeare’s words were directed specifically at the craft of acting but they apply just as well to other forms of artistic expression, from movies to comic books to videogames. In these venues, just as surely as on the stage, the only real restriction we place on art is that it should reflect the truth back at us, and though Hamlet might have disagreed, the exaggerated realism of today’s games and movies are just as effective in communicating truth as the Dane’s sober literalism.
Videogames and movies are not only forms of art, but also are themselves part of the nature that art is meant to mirror. Sometimes this means that videogames or movies serve as each other’s subject matter. Movies like TRON and Wargames and games like Stuntman and Viewtiful Joe merge the worlds of movies and games far more than simple tie-ins like Super Mario Bros. or the endless Star Wars catalog. Other times, videogames and movies don’t reference each other directly but instead co-opt one another’s conventions and formats. Just look at last year’s Scott Pilgrim Versus the World or Heavy Rain, each of which blurs the lines between what games and movies are supposed to look like.
As technology evolves and becomes more accessible, videogames will be able to deliver living room experiences that rival what Hollywood is offering. Additionally, as gaming becomes more relevant to movie-going audiences, filmmakers will be encouraged to make movies that reflect the perspectives and attitudes of gamers. Whether each medium benefits from this cross-pollination depends on how well the standards and approaches are translated to match the possibilities inherent in a new setting. After all, as much as I love movies and games, the last thing I want is for the two to become indistinguishable.
This week we’re taking a look at the intersection of both mediums and the expectations of the different audiences. Bob “MovieBob” Chipman talks about famous screenwriter John Milius’ migration from movies to games in “On the Front Lines.” Adam Gauntlett’s “Satan, Bad Acting, and Dice” reveals the ways a certain 1980s movie demonized roleplaying games. In “House of Horrors,” Brendan Main uses Phantasmagoria to explore the early days of “interactive storytelling.” Finally, Blaine Kyllo’s “Show, Don’t Tell” celebrates the fortuitous combination of Andy Serkis and motion capture in the game Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.