The Convergence of Games With Films and the Need to Rebrand

With the growth in power in gaming hardware, and increased graphical abilities of the last few generations, video game cut scenes and gameplay are coming closer and closer to the level of movies. In many ways, games have started taking tips from the movie industry and are becoming steadily more cinematic. The question is, are games becoming too much like movies? Would it be a bad thing for the mediums to converge? What does that do for storytelling in the medium and does the medium need rebranding to be taken seriously as a storytelling medium?

A great example of games becoming more like movies is the PS3 excusive Heavy Rain. The game’s interaction was very Quick Time Event (QTE) heavy, and its focus on things like combat and puzzle solving was more limited. In exchange for this, they were able to focus more on cinematography, graphical fidelity, and crafting a very well paced and well written storyHeavy Rain involved tracking down a serial killer who has kidnapped a young boy. It had the kind of emotional maturity we don’t often see from the medium, and told a dark and gritty story that gained the ability to have branching storylines and a greater emotional impact on the player by being a video game.

Many have criticised Heavy Rain for feeling like less of a game for what it sacrificed, but I personally felt that by allowing you control over a story that had such strong themes, it drew me in more than any film, game or book in recent memory. This is something the video games industry needs to overcome if it is to go in this direction, as people will often focus more on what they lose than what they gain from change.

The recently released Asura’s Wrath faced these same problems. It is pretty short at six hours, split into eighteen different twenty minute “episodes”, and most of the game consists of cut scenes and QTE’s. Whilst it recieved mostly favourable reviews, a lot of reviewers scored it down for this, as they thought it lost a lot of what made it a game and that it felt more like watching an anime instead. But I feel that there is another way to look at it. As an avid anime fan, I’m used to paying the sort of money that Asura’s Wrath currently costs to get around the same length of content in an anime box set. By looking at Asura’s Wrath as an interactive anime box set, I found that what I gained from it being on a video game system was invaluable. I was watching a beautiful and over the top anime that I got to take part in. How could I say no?

There are also examples like the recently released Kara demo from Quantic Dream which show the levels of emotion that can now be conveyed on systems, and illustrates how close we are getting to movies in terms of delivering an emotionally impactful story.

The point I’m making is that whilst some of these experiences are different to what we have come to expect from a game, they offer a huge amount to people who know what to expect going in. I feel like a rebranding, much like when comics began being known as graphic novels, would really benefit many different types of games. If it weren’t for the title of video games, we might have seen Six Days in Fallujah reach the light of day. Tansy Hoskins of Stop The War Coalition said, “To make a game out of a war crime and to capitalise on the death and injury of thousands is sick… The massacre in Fallujah should be remembered with shame and horror not glamorised and glossed over for entertainment.” However, I can’t help but feel that if that a movie dealt with the same subject matter, with the same level of care and respect, then it would have been supported. The closest example would be the movie The Hurt Locker, which was set during the Iraq war and received no such controversy before or during its production. It eventually won an Oscar for best picture.

Some titles people have suggested for a rebranding of video games include things like visual interactions or interactive experiences, which are a bit of a mouthful, but gets the point across that the medium can be about interacting more heavily with a movie, as well as the traditional types of game.

What do you think? Do games need a rebranding? Do you want to see more games in the vain of Asura’s Wrath and Heavy Rain? Let us know in the comments below

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