An industry for itself, created by itself… trying to be someone else

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By PillsburyDeeBoy

In recent memory, games like Grand Theft Auto and Halo have assisted console gaming by becoming front and center in the public’s eye and shaking up entertainment as a whole. Halo was accused of stealing Ben Stiller’s thunder, and, likewise, there were fears that Iron Man may under perform due to Grand Theft Auto’s imposing presence. Grand Theft Auto IV to date has had a sell‐through of 8.5 million units, with 11 million units being shipped to retailers and an estimated 15 million units to be sold by this year’s end.

Video gaming, evidently, is a pretty big deal in and of itself (and somewhat recession proof, too). So why then, I ask, does the industry feel like it needs to validate its existence by cross-pollinating (polluting?) with other mediums?
Admittedly, no small fault of that is the (relative) infancy of the industry, coupled with video games like Metal Gear both borrowing heavily from Film and (often times criticized) for trying to hard to be like a Film – an interactive one at that, yet a Film no less. Yet that can’t be it though.

What we see with video gaming is nothing new. In fact, the now omnipotent Film industry suffered the same fait in its formative years. Often accused of being artistically primitive when compared to traditional theatre (immature may be the better term, actually), movies were caught in the rut of trying too hard to be like a “recorded theatrical” (it did not help that some of them were exactly that) or attempted to follow the guidelines set out by traditional novel‐based literature. Yet Film carved out a name for itself by being just that – Film. A movie. Not a novel with auditory narrations and live actors. Not a recorded theatrical play. A movie, a medium that borrowed heavily from others but was desperate to be its own thing as well.

I propose video games should do the same. Yet, how does an industry, so caught up in the mentality of intellectual property maximization (milking it ‘til the cow tips, stumbles and falls, if I’m asked) such that anything that is remotely successful would be considered for conversion to Film? Super Mario Bros The Movie?

That’s still a bad dream I’m trying to wake up from. Too many bedfellows, I guess. The truth is…I don’t know how the industry can escape. What did Portal do that made it the short-lived cult hit (and internet meme creator) it was? How has Braid, in all its pretentiousness, made people (well, everybody but Lazy) feel the way they did after completing it? Furthermore, if you rethink the aforementioned examples,
they worked because of the medium, and (although I’m convinced somebody is going to try) aren’t supposed to be movies.

Read  It's a-movie! Mario Bros. getting animated film from Despicable Me studio

You know whose fault it is, though? It is your fault, dear gamer! Yeah, it’s your entire fault! You know why? ‘Cause you thought it was okay to go watch that awful Jean-Claude Van Damme Street Fighter Llick. Because somehow, you convinced yourself that the Resident Evil movies were good. They aren’t. Can the industry get on with being itself? It’s time Bobby Kotick and John Ricciotello realized that Universal needs them more than they need Universal. The numbers speak for themselves.

Last Updated: August 29, 2008

  • Banana hammock

    Well it’s an interesting point of view but remember it goes both ways, why do we need games based on movies? We don’t cause they mostly suck but if you put a business hat on you’ll see why it’s done; it’s easy money.

    You can spew out 7 Harry Potter games in no time and they will still sell cause people will by the brand/name they enjoy. Same goes with Spiderman, Hulk etc etc. Easy money for these devs who can shoot out a game in 6 months.

    Why spend $50 million on an attempted masterpiece only to have it flop (Haze, Lair, Too Human etc).

    Is it worth the risk? Plus, don’t forget that like some people who want more from their movies than Die Hard 1,2,3,4 etc etc, some of us like a deep storyline and an emotive experience; not all gamers only want kill/death/maim all the time, some of us want something different every now and then. Like things from Team ICO and games that blur the line between movie and game (Heavy Rain).

    You want the industry to “be itself”, i say let 90% of the industry do that and let the other 10% explore the outer reaches of the industry.

  • As a rule I try to stay away from movie games, as I’m normally frustrated by them, (and vice versa) however there are a couple that do tend to impress me Lost the video game was one of them, Ubisoft put a little more effort into that title. Personally though I prefer games that have a movie like feel to them games like Fahrenheit was an awesome experience, and I’m enjoying the feel of GTA IV’s story as well. and if Blizzard ever did a CG movie I’d be there no questions asked you wouldn’t even have to show me a trailer, because I love cut scenes in movies 😯 so pretty… so I agree with you too a point, Movies made after games can be pretty dismal however I’m pretty damn excited to see Max Payne on Circuit, you also have to remember that there are 3 gaming segmants, your Hardcore gamer, Casual gamer, and non-gamer these movie games are aimed at the latter and therefore won’t include intense control systems and hard puzzle solving from a business point of view these games are ment to allow the casual – non-gamer to enjoy the experience they saw on screen.

  • PillsburyDeeBoy

    By saying I want the industry to be itself, I’m really stating that it should not derive its existence from someone else. Licensing is natural – I like money, too, and IP should not be used necessarily sparingly, however, the absolute best games of all time are not based on movies (and, by the same token, the absolute best movies of all time are not based on games.)

    What I am saying, though, is that when you have Street Fighter (a game) The Movie: The game, then something truly is amiss 🙂 . Yet from a leverage stake, it still appears that the film industry is the gaming industry’s surrogate big brother, yet the gaming industry is growing at a rate the film industry only has dreams about. I was quite chuffed when Bobby Kotick told Universal Music to go jump. That same attitude applied to film, because gaming can, would be great, too.

  • Banana hammock

    But this trend is starting to reverse. Before it was always the game based on the movie, now we are starting to see movies based on games. The results are exactly what you’d expect; the medium doing the copying ends up with a crap product.

    Just look at Doom the movie, Street Fighter the movie, Tomb Raider the movie etc etc. The medium doing the copying is using the existing fanbase of the other medium to produce a quick cheap ripoff that will still sell well. It’s a great business tactic but it sucks for the consumer looking for a quality product. It’s OUR fault if we buy into the hype and thus create a market for this sort of practice.

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