Are Videogames Becoming More Like Movies?

With technology constantly improving, and the lengths of these games getting generally shorter, are videogames becoming more and more like Movies? There was a time when the two were entirely seperate entities, offering unique, often complimentary experiences similar to reading a book and watching a movie about the same topic. I feel with the graphical enhancements of recent years, the gap is closing between the two.

Our older readers might remember a time when videogaming meant going to your local arcade and losing your pocket money on the various cabinets, or merely wasting your hours trying to get as far as possible through one of the old cartridges (because they didnt have a save feature). There was no question of a videogame giving a movielike experience. For example, Terminator 2: Judgement Day on the Commadore 64, it barely even resembled the movie, and relied on short sentences to move the story along. This was hardly an experience equal to watching a blockbuster. (Plus it looks like it was awfull)

As time went on, graphics slowly improved, with games like Star Fox on the Super Nintendo showing revolutionary (at the time) 3d graphics. The biggest push toward cinematic gaming however, came with the next generation of consoles (the PSone, Nintendo 64 and PC’s). Suddenly games where capable of 3d worlds, enhanced audio and even voice overs. Suddenly we had movie tie ins which were far closer to the movie than we had ever seen before, like Goldeneye on N64.

As much of a classic as Goldeneye was, I’m sure none of us were under the illusion this was an experience comparable to watching a film. This generation did however produce a lot of games clearly inspired by hollywood, like Metal Gear Solid (Solid Snake was based on Plissken from Escape From New York).
The PS2, Gamecube, Xbox and next generation of PC’s took another Giant step toward cinematic experiences.This was a generation of near endless movie tie ins (there was even an Astro Boy tie in released last year on PS2, 10 years after the consoles release). This was the generation where it was a viable option to make a movie tie in that wasnt based on a movies plot and still make a healthy addition to the franchise and cannon, for instance Chronicles of Riddick on Xbox.

A gameplay mechanic from this generation thats helped the cinematic experience hugely is the quick time event as shown here in God of War 2 (PS2). A quick time event is a mechanic that allows the camera to follow the action and the animation to be far more cinematic but allows for very limited controll of your character, only pressing the onscreen prompts.

Compare that now, to the present generation of consoles. God of War 3 on PS3

QTE allows for high quality animated scenes with a scripted events to be a part of the regular gameplay experience, the Videogame equivelent to a huge action sequence. Add to this the ever improving graphics, audio and gameplay techniques (motion controls for example), and videogames are getting freakishly close to the movies.

Games like Mass Effect allow the gamer almost complete control over their experience and their story. You choose your dialogue and decide your course of action which later affects the story and ending. I feel it has a unique, immersive world similar to how Star Wars must have felt back in the 70’s. Heres a video of an upcoming game, LA Noire, which shows that even the subtleties of acting aren’t far from gamings grasp.

The current generation of consoles is on its last legs, having been out for 5 years and counting. It wont be long before we get another set of technological powerhouses capable of creating the same blockbusters we expect from a trip to the cinema.
My question to you guys is this; with generations growing up gaming, and hollywood taking less and less from ticket sales and home releases, can you see a future where both film and videogames become nearly indistinguishable? A world where Movies become more interactive experiences?

[Note: I’m not saying it will, or that i’d like it to, I’m purely after the oppinions of you guys]

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9 thoughts on “Are Videogames Becoming More Like Movies?

  1. Games are interactive, movies are not. No amount of technology will change that. What makes very good Video Games interesting is emergent behaviour: there’s not one or two elements interacting, but 10 or 20 or even more, leading to something different every time due to the zillions of interactions. Even relatively linear video games (like, say, Donkey Kong Country) use these interactions to get over 10 hours of game play out of only a few dozen game objects, in a way not entirely dissimilar to Chess. This contrasts squarely with movies, which are based on stories, not emergent behaviour.

    If you look closely at a movie, you’ll see that, well, everything is carefully staged. Everything falls into place at the right moment to steer the action to the right direction. The movie director has to cram a lot of story in only so much time, so not a second is wasted. That’s why movies follow “movie logic” – things work that way because there’s not enough screen time for someone to try something and fail 47 times and succeed the 48th – it has to be success on the 2nd or 3rd time or else the movie simply isn’t long enough. Camera angles are varied and cut all over the place, including close-ups etc.

    Applying any of this to video games is a recipe for failure. The more carefully you stage a game element, the less flexible it gets, the less “mileage” you get out of anything you put in, the less emergent behaviour you get, etc… Games are ABOUT learning, ie failing at something multiple times before getting the hang of it and mastering the game’s emergent logic. Camera angles, too, have to be completely different: whereas keeping the camera at eye-level and closeups and cuts are ideal in movies, in a video game, you really want something like a top-down view (it’s free and you see everything happening), large views (you want to see the environment, not the badly modelled face of the main character of which you’ll be seeing the back most of the time anyways), and obviously no camera cuts. The fact that a real player has a reaction time of about 1/4 of a second means that everything has to be spaced in time and nothing can be frantic like in a movie, too.

    As for Quick Time Events, they are extremely shallow, basically an animated version of “Choose Your Own Adventure”: there’s obviously no possibility of emergent behaviour, and the most you can learn is that you have to press button X at spot Y in the cinematic – there’s no learning the rules of the game world, no chance of the player figuring out a neat combination of game play elements or having to adapt to all sorts of situations, only rote memorization. In particular, the crown jewel of game play (imho) – having to make a plan (planning out how to solve a Lemmings level, planning out what path to take to a star in Mario64, planning out how to navigate a deep and dangerous dungeon with your HP ticking down in Castlevania SOTN, equipping your characters for a boss fight in a RPG, etc…) is completely impossible, all you can do is win or fail and memorize.

    All in all, even though there’s more imitation of movies in recent games, that doesn’t detract from the fact that internally, movies are EXTREMELY different from video games. Movies are actually much closer to comics for instance – which is why they use story boarding to plan out shots. Just like in movies, every box in a comic is very carefully planned out (otherwise punchlines don’t work!), dialogues are edited down to the fewest words possible, and everything has to be done to move forward the action as much as possible, otherwise it takes way too many strips to get anywhere (just look at a bad webcomic for an example of this).

    The need to line up everything to tell a story is a distinctive characteristic of movies and comics, and pretty much any other “narrative” type of medium (TV, novels, you name it). While video games often borrow some of this “narrative” stuff (which results in plotlines, cinematics etc…), the core, the meat of a good video game is distinctly NOT narrative. Video games can tell a story (and many do) but at the core they’re not about telling stories, they’re all about playing around with a system, learning how it works, what interactions are inside, and so forth. That’s the “game” part in Video GAMES!

  2. The influence that movies have on video games have made video games evolve over time. Video game players want more and more control over their character in the game. The more like real life the better. One of my favorite games to play when I was younger was Zelda on Nintendo 64. Zelda offers a wide variety of gameplay options, having an entire world for the main character, Link, to explore. Also in the game are cinematic sequences to progress the story line that look like they could be from a movie. The storytelling is much like that in a movie.

  3. makes me imagine the movie pausing asking “would you like them to shoot first? Shoot second? or duck behind the counter?” and some guy watching the movie 4 times to see the possible outcomes XD mass effect 1 & 2 all over again

  4. I always thought that the movie industry’s influence on video-games has certainly brought it to the level where it is now, which is a good place, but has since kept it limited. The interactive element hasn’t always been capitalized on to create new dimensions of storytelling – it’s all cutscenes and quicktime events trying to emulate Hollywood. Games like Metroid Prime and Shadow of the Colossus have incorporated the player as part of the exploratory experience

  5. Things are really starting to get interesting as they become better at incorporating mannerisms and facial expressions into games. I think L.A. Noir is supposed to be the best upcoming example of “reading a person’s face” that we’ll see in games for a while.

    I think games are already like movies considering the amount of Machinima’s on the net. I love me some “Red v. Blue” so they can be used for storytelling. I don’t think CGI can replace actors for a while, not with people still having trouble with the Uncanny Valley and becoming disturbed by that but we are at the point where I think full narrative’s can be told using game engine’s. There’s a pretty cool short movie floating around right now based on Red Dead Redemption that’s been getting a lot of attention. Pixar has commented on this topic recently as well as more video game developers are collaborating with movie studio’s during early production.

    On another note, I think Epic Mickey needed and deserved an animated tie-in.

  6. I think a great example of how movies and video games can intermingle was Enter the Matrix. The game gave you control of character from the movie (Niobe and Ghost) that didn’t receive much screen time. The game had you playing through their mission that was mentioned in the movie, but not seen on screen. The Wachowski brothers actually filmed move footage specifically for the game. It was meant to be a continuation of The Matrix Reloaded. The game sucked, but I thought it was a clever idea and a great way to provide depth to the franchise. Great idea, but a poor game made it utterly forgettable.

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