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04/01/2011

Could games reach the level of interactive movies?

An interesting topic to say the least that is not unique but still valid, over the gaming generations the question has been raised from time-to-time of can games reach the level of interactive movies?


OPINION

Now sure, it sounds pretentious to suggest that something where a player controls the on-screen actions through pressing buttons and directions on a joypad could reach the level of emotional and intellectual depth that some of the greatest pictures in cinema history such as Citizen Kane, Schindler's List, Dead Man Walking, The Deer Hunter, Pan's Labyrinth or the recently released Inception have been able to entice from their audiences. And yet, those very same films make connections with the audience's emotional base through the same means and mechanisms to reach their empathetic epicentre, becoming absorbed in the story unfolding before them of the emotional plight of the characters involved.

Games are still a reasonably young medium. The developers' ability to weave a tale that players care about, that they can spend time with and want to see unfold piece by piece is a trial within itself. The likes of many a JRPG reach the level of maturity one can expect from teen fiction, yet the 1,000 years of dreams presented in Lost Odyssey, a series of short stories that recall experiences encountered in immortal protagonist Kaim's life allow for an interesting departure from the action, a suitable reprieve from the pace of the game's battles and adventuring.

The Uncharted games wear their inspiration on their sleeves, allowing adventure fans to enjoy a romp not too dissimilar from the outings of one whip-cracking archaeologist who has a fear of snakes. Heavy Rain showed gamers that they can enjoy a different experience by controlling the action on screen (or should that be actors?) as the story unfolds not too unlike a big screen movie as they get one step closer to figuring out who The Origami Killer is after all.

As there are several examples of titles that are capable of achieving the heights of involvement and movie-like depth such as those mentioned previously, we have been graced with several examples of titles over time that aim to be 'cinematic' yet would possibly be more enjoyable if they were to focus on being the best games they can be for the audience.

Titles such as Metal Gear Solid 4, Resident Evil 5, Halo 3 and Prototype were worthy titles in regards to their gameplay, appearance and overall impression they left on the player. The length of MGS4's cut-scenes were at times enough to test any avid gamer with a penchant for adoring army-tech, terms and a pre-OAP Snake, RE5 presented its best rendition of Black Hawk Down, Halo 3 pulled out all the stops towards the end and Prototype wanted us to feel all mean, moody and somewhat empathetic for its protagonist Alex and his ever-evolving body.

We should also ask that if games can be interactive movies, does this mean that they are losing the sense of what the essence of games are? In most cases, pure unadulterated fun, allowing players to escape for an hour or two in their day or to unwind from the stresses and troubles the day may have thrown their way. The future games market over the next few years will determine if the industry continues to go down this road or whether the likes of Nintendo, Apple and Facebook determine the types of games that are released for casual players versus the core players who will put their money down on the latest titles to get their next taste of something they can enjoy and absorb.

Do you think games can be interactive movies? Should they attempt to achieve such a goal or stick to what the general public knows them for; some fun time and 'for children' to spend time with and enjoy? Any thoughts, feel free to post them in the the Comments section below.

3 comments:

Kinsta said...

Games, although sometimes striving to present themselves as interactive movies will never be like film - and vice versa.
Although they are increasingly overlapping with games now having realistically rendered cutscenes, orchestral music scores and hollywood grade animation and voice acting, the two mediums are still decidedly different.

In somewhat simplified terms- films are passive in that you watch a pre-laid out narrative. Although you can be emotionally involved, there is no physical input. You just need to sit still and let prescribed events unfurl before you.

In a game, its you who are conducting your own narrative- your interactions with the physical interface (whether it be joypad or whatever) propelling your own story forward (how you engage with the environment, familiarising yourself with the game mechanics, engaging in meta games - currency, collectibles etc...) as well as following the more restrictive narrative path that is already drawn out in the games 'levels' or 'areas'.

Just as a same with too many cutscenes suffers (MGS series), films in which you have to push a button everytime you wanted to watch the next scene would equally be nonsensical.

So, although games can be said to be increasingly 'cinematic' in their presentation - they will never be like cinema in that the underlying mechanics and audience relationship are fundamentally different.

Patrick Honeyman said...

A fine response Seb to what I have written. You should get your writing going on your blog, even if it is only once in a while.

You could teach me a couple of things about form and style as well. You appear to have plenty of it.

Kinsta said...

I love you too man, lol.
Yeah will be catching up on the writing soon.
cheers Pad.