Video Games, Narrative, and Hollywood

So, although I really don't have time to write this, I have to react to the recent article in the LA Times warning movie executives to stay away from video games. I found the discussion over at Joystiq. Here's a selection (link to LA Times article, you can get a password here):

Hollywood can’t win at video games. Because 13-year-old boys spend hours zapping asteroids or stealing virtual cars, movies based on video games would seem to be the logical follow-up to the comic- book-to-movie frenzy. Screenwriter Josh Olson, who was rewriting the “Halo” script (Peter Jackson was to direct) before the movie fell apart, says video games “have aimless cycles. You go to A, shoot some monsters, then go to B, then start over and do it again.” Iraq doesn’t sell. Though Hollywood did its high-minded darnedest to enlighten us with Middle East political treatises such as “Lions for Lambs,” “Redacted,” “Rendition,” “In the Valley of Elah” and “The Kingdom,” the masses have spoken and the verdict is: We’ll take “Spider-Man,” thank you.

RULE #1 | Step away from the video games. Transforming this medium’s weak narratives to film hasn’t been as successful as with comic books


First, what does Halo and shooting have to do with Iraq? Bad paragraph, bad paragraph! It will serve as an example for my teaching presentation at Western Illinois next week on logical development.

More to the heart of the matter, video games really don't make good movies. But its because their narratives are different from those of films. They are longer and more subtle [think: Final Fantasy VII or X]. Like books, you cannot always translate the internal monologue and character development to the big screen [think: Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid 2]. They are interactive-much of their catharsis depends on the players implication with their avatar [think: Silent Hill 3, Shadow of the Colossus]. Of course, there's plenty of flat, meaningless games that do follow aimless uninspired story lines with 2 dimensional characters [though I don't think Halo is one of them- try anything put out by Nintendo whose found a way to put out another "but our princess is in another castle" storyline]. And there were plenty of shitty movies before people tried converting every superhero, whether analogue or digital, into a big screen success. There are plenty of books that don't make it to the silver screen, and don't make it into any book clubs, either [I'm talking to you, Susan Warner's Wide, Wide World].

Video games are their own medium. And no, I don't think that they will necessarily translate well into other mediums. Why should they? To offer a different perspective, video games are outselling the movie and the music industry combined. 21st century attention is going in different directions. Soon, I imagine games will increasingly look back to movies and books for inspiration. We'll have to wait and see if these older narratives can lend themselves to making compelling games.


Casey said...

There you go imagining the Jetsons' future again, Santos... hmph.


Insignificant Wrangler said...

The Moby Dick would have one hell of a final boss battle.