A Movie You Can Control: Cinema’s Effect on Video Games
Ever been watching a movie and wished you could tell the actors that what they’re doing is stupid? That you have a much better plan that would totally work, and if they would only do that instead, maybe the zombies wouldn’t eat them, or the comrade that was clearly going to inevitably betray them wouldn’t get the chance? Well I have. But with the advent of video games in recent years that seemingly make a conscious effort to mimic the pacing and immersive experience of a film, it’s almost like we have the ability to watch a movie that we’re also able to play through and control. For a classic narcissist such as myself, this is clearly the greatest thing to happen to video games since the B-button.
Obviously, cinema precedes video gaming. However, they are both rooted in the quintessential artistic question, “what if?” What if humans on a deep-space transport mission encounter a hostile alien life form that kills everyone but a woman who suspiciously resembles Sigourney Weaver? What if a plumber was somehow transported to a fantasy kingdom in order to save a princess who’s prone to being kidnapped? What if aliens had invaded Earth during World War II? Of course I have to stop sometime, but those are all killer ideas that would make great movies/games. Someone should probably write those down. You never know what could sell.
One thing that video games can offer that a movie can’t is an almost unlimited amount of time in which to tell the story. Audiences generally won’t sit through an 8, 12, or 32-hour movie, but put a controller in someone’s hands and let them interact with the story they’re experiencing, and you’d be surprised at how long their attention span will last. Of course, this is not to say that a game necessarily has non-stop action and interaction, but combining great action and cinematic sequences (cutscenes) often results in a very in-depth and engaging game.
When you watch a movie, there’s only as much story as the film can relate in it’s time limit. What’s that? I’m repeating myself? Not hardly, ladies and gentlemen. What I’m getting at is the director, the writer, and the actors are delivering information to a theatregoer, whereas in a video game, the gamer discovers additional information on their own. In Resistance and Resistance 2, we could pick up Intel documents, revealing even more of the rich story the actors and narrative help develop. So the gamer basically gets as much out of a game as he puts in, which puts video games at an advantage over the medium of cinema in how much of a story, or an interesting experience that they can deliver.
Something interesting that I’ve been noticing in games recently is that the shooting of cutscenes, or even gameplay, is developing and evolving similar to cinema. Think about Metal Gear Solid (here we go). To say nothing of the cutscenes, the gameplay itself was a revelation in how camera angles can set tension. Another great example of this is Resident Evil. Both of these games relied on not being able to see around the next corner until it’s too late, or tactically peeking around said corner. In addition to this, both of these franchises rely heavily on the element of surprise, much like a thriller or a suspense movie. Oftentimes it’s what you can’t see that defines tension in a game, or a movie. Try that theory with Sonic the Hedgehog. Even more recent games have featured the handycam style of filming, adding to the realism of the game experience. Going from the older style of side-scrolling to the 3rd person or 1st person views, and coming to the free-floating camera that can often be controlled by the player themselves, we have an experience that immerses the viewer/gamer in a way we haven’t seen before.
Eventually, I really wouldn’t be surprised if video games overpowered the medium of cinema in popular culture. The sheer depth and breadth of a game can often be way more emotional and powerful than a film. On second thought, never mind that. People are just too lazy for that to ever happen. Send them to the cineplex, fill up their popcorn and extra large Big Gulp, and I’ll be trying to stop the Nazi zombiepocalypse.
Hey, Nazi Zombiepocalypse. That’d make a good movie.