In response to “A Videogame, in Three Acts” from The Escapist Forum: I’ve seen plenty of films that played fast and loose with the system. By and large, they were better for it. Then again, the overall introduction/question->resolution->climax/what then? provides one more good reason why Indigo Prophecy is jarring. It follows the formula perfectly (thus building expectations) until it goes bananas and then restarts somewhere after the beginning. It’s like switching channels between two drastically different films on TV.
Interesting theories, but little more. As it’s been said before, you can’t apply the theory of movies and cinema to games, at least not directly. Your article mentions that you can’t make the game more compelling by adding to the gameplay. To that, I say: Yes, you can. Play NetHack. The story fits in a small box of text. It’s not compelling because of that, it’s compelling because of the ridiculous depth of gameplay, far beyond most of the deepest games out there. It may be a special case, but even if you make the story more compelling while ignoring gameplay, it won’t work – the gameplay has to help you out here. After all, it’s what makes a game a game.
Another strike against it is that games are much longer than movies. A three-hour movie is long. A five-hour game is short. If you develop something in the first minutes of gameplay and hold it over the players’ heads for the hours and hours of gameplay it loses its power over time. There are ways to reverse this, mostly renewing the conflict (also know as ‘there goes the city again’) but a better way is to solve issues while creating new ones.
In response to “String Theory: The Illusion of Videogame Interactivity” from The Escapist Forum: I remember hearing (somewhere… damned if I can find a source for it) that throughout HalfLife 2, it’ll subtly tweak the amount of damage you receive to try and keep you alive for as long as is believable – you take less damage per hit when you’re low on health, but not to the point where you’re unable to die, or that you’d notice unless you were carefully taking notes on how much damage everything does.
Less player death means more time spent on the fun parts, more “just a little further, need to find health” tension, less repetition of parts you’ve already played through, I approve. If it were too blatant it’d feel like it was sucking all the challenge out of the game, but they seem to have it finely honed to the point where you always feel challenged, but don’t feel that it’s impossible.
I actually found this article really interesting, but not for what it said, so much. Rather, it was interesting to compare to ancient literary criticism (bear with me here).
The talk of games ‘lying’ to us by trying to convince us that there is more freedom on offer than they actually simulate is very, very similar to the ancient problem of literature ‘lying’ to us by trying to convince us of the reality of their fiction. These days, we talk about the ability of literature to help us ‘suspend our disbelief’ – we accept that while fiction is, well, fictional, it works best when it convinces us, albeit temporarily, of its ‘truthfulness’. This doesn’t bother us at all, but in early literary criticism it was a huge stumbling block to get over; there simply wasn’t a culture of literature in place to allow critics to accept that while lying was bad, the ‘lies’ of fiction were an altogether different kettle of fish.
It would seem that games criticism is currently at that stage, where the ‘lies’ of games in their attempt to immerse gamers more fully are still seen as troublesome, and not simply accepted. I wonder how long it’ll take us to get over the problem?
(It took the Greeks a few hundred years, by comparison)
In response to “Paul W.S. Anderson: Not as Bad as Uwe Boll” from The Escapist Forum: I didn’t care too much for Event Horizon, but least the rest of his oeuvre is stupid to the point of being silly rather than stupid to the point of offending. Quite frankly I liked the first RE movie a good bit more than Transformers because Anderson at least realizes when a scene is falling flat and knows when to add crazy. Transformers came from Michael Bay and still managed to have gag-me-with-a-spoon smarmy scenes like “have you been wanking, lol?” and “oh those wacky Autobots” moments that were dead inside. Paul Anderson cuts out his cheese-festery a little bit better; Armageddon from Bay I liked but that was due to being carried by Willis and Buscemi.
This was a pretty good read. I liked how you examined each movie from different perspectives, it made the whole thing much more enjoyable to read.
It’s funny that many people actually consider Anderson to be one of the few directors worse than Boll, but if Event Horizon showed us anything, it showed that at least Anderson knows how to make a good film.
Personally, I think all directors should stay away from video games. The interactivity of video games is what makes them special, and removing that can only result in disaster.
In response to “The Cutting Room Floor” from The Escapist Forum: I think many games would benefit from deeper characters. While not so much a part of say, fighting games, or indeed many FPS games, those with aims towards real character empathy require it to function properly. I’m going to point out Silent Hill 2 as one which enabled the player to empathise.
It might just come down to my dream that one day I’ll find a game in which every single character feels real. They have personal effects, the story of their lives playing out in their own mind and in characterisation.
Oh, and there’d have to be a serial killer. Or ghosts. Or something to make it scary as hell. Now that’s a game I’d obsess over.
Something just reminded me of the Last Express the other day, what an odd coincidence.
One of the most interesting games in terms of “interactive movies” I can recall is Final Fantasy X. This is a game that seriously decreased the apparent freedom of the gamer (no explorable world map) in exchange for a linear travel progression. This managed to add a feeling of progress, in really truly exploring the game world, that previous Final Fantasies didn’t succeed in.
Wing Commander III is also an interesting game to mention due to its FMV movies, but its prequels may be better examples. Wing Commander II, specifically, was a massive, more successful attempt at telling a cinematic-style story with excellent gameplay – far superior to the kind of placeholder space battles of WC3.
In response to “We’re Off to See The Wizard” from The Escapist Forum: I’d say, if anything, a film about gamers – which is sort of what The Wizard was, once you get past the advertising – would be even MORE mainstream and easy to monetize today than in 1989. You couldn’t use it to highlight a specific game the way Wizard highlighted Mario 3, no. Of course not. You couldn’t use it to highlight a specific system either. But if you took a scattershot equal-opportunity love/mockery approach, you’d get an almost guaranteed massive audience.
Look at the omnipresent Judd Apatow crew, and the movies they’re making. Hell, isn’t Michael Cera just playing an older version of Fred Savage’s character, over and over again anyway? Didn’t Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and Seth Rogen spend a third of “40 Year Old Virgin” either playing or referencing video games? All of those films are raunchy romantic comedies about geeks. It would take very little stretching to make their favorite subject the core of the story.
Enjoyable article, brought back fond memories. I don’t think anyone who grew up in that certain age set didn’t love the movie, love SMB3, and covet the glove.
A thought for Labyrinth, where would you place King of Kong as far as positive/negative message? It’s a funny, interesting, and well made film, but it’s also about a group of grown men(some very obviously socially inept) playing a nearly 30 year old game obsessively. Not that I have any qualms with it, just trying to consider how a non-gamer would perceive the people in it. Wiebe is pretty likable overall, but some of the others are probably what parents see as worst-case scenario.