Over the past decade, film has become a cliché in video games. It’s a term that has come to describe high-budget studio games like The last of us part 2. Do you have a big action package? It’s cinematic. Expensive cuts that look like a Michael Bay movie? Movie. Characters of all depths. Pure movie!
The word has lost its meaning, turning into a genre that describes a very specific type Hollywood-sized action game. But film is a broad media that contains much more than just success factors. Video games can be borrowed from movies with plenty of others to create storytelling experiences.
While A-list games continue to build spectacles, indie developers get deeper into the filmmaking tool to create more diverse storytelling experiences. In the process, they crush some long-standing barriers between the gaming and film worlds.
Let’s play with form
Ten years ago, it was a big deal when a video game looked or sounded like a movie. PlayStation 3 game Heavy rain made a significant impact in 2010 as no one had seen anything like it at the time. It felt like a playable movie and offered an emotionally challenging (at least by 2010 standards) experience.
It has changed significantly over the last decade. It is now more common to see video games telling scripted stories instead of producing interactivity behind the narrative to guide the action. Those storytelling steps have been especially significant in an independent scene that has steadily changed even the definition of the game over the years.
There are plenty of examples of this in the upcoming publication table for 2021. Take it Last stop, for example. The adventure game comes from the developer of Variable State, best known for the mystery game Virginia. After its publication Virginia was unique in the use of film editing techniques. Last stop use similar ideas, with intentional cuts and camera angles scattered during the heavy game of conversation.
At the game’s press conference, Variable State developers discussed the film as an inspiring headline. They specifically mentioned the works of Robert Altman, the director, known for creating great ensemble films with multiple character-driven stories, as a key influence on the project.
Last stop lends the same idea to create a woven mystery together. Players control three seemingly unrelated residents of London, whose paths intersect throughout the game. It’s an anthological story that we don’t usually associate with video games. Surprisingly, Last stopThe closest game manager may be Rockstar Grand Theft Auto V, where players control three Los Santos criminals.
For blue filmmakers who crave these types of stories, the game world is doing a bolder job today than in Hollywood.
Indie studios don’t just experiment with film structure; they also rethink what kind of genres games can fit. Publishers like Bethesda make strong use of science fiction and fantasy, but smaller studios tend to show more flexibility. This applies to both style and subject matter.
See Hazelight Studios to make sure it’s working. Led by the ever-eclectic Josef Fares (former filmmaker), the indie studio has built its name by pushing the storytelling of video games by playing in a genre. Its 2018 multiplayer Exit pulled from prison escape movies to tell a dramatic story based on realism.
This year it went in the opposite direction It takes two, but the game still follows a similar philosophy. While it’s more of a magical realistic fantasy, Fares uses the term “romantic comedy” to describe the game. It is an area where large gaming studios have been afraid to go through the life cycle of the medium.
That shyness about certain genres limits what kind of stories games can tell. Pulling on the traditional rom-com structure, Hazelight is able to tell a story about a couple on the verge of separation that emphasizes the importance of collaboration in a relationship. This idea may sound pretty normal to a movie, but it’s a strangely unknown area in video games.
The storytelling of video games is constantly expanding, for example It takes two, and that is not the only example. Eliza is an excellent visual novel about a woman working in a morally questionable technology company that has automated speech therapy. Last year’s standout If you can find … is a great game about a transgender woman struggling to get her family’s approval. One of the best games of the year, Before your eyes, is a teardrop from a drama about a person at the end of his life who relives his memories. The entire game is controlled by player flashes, which are monitored via a webcam.
They may not have million-dollar budgets, but they’re not as “cinematic” as they are Last Us.
welcome to the club
The film world doesn’t take, e, and that’s a significant change from where the industry was a decade ago. In 2010, the late film critic Roger Ebert famously wrote an article declaringvideo games can never be art. “It was a controversial match that divided the world of film and gaming.
The perspective looks a lot different in 2021. Just look at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival eight indie games as the official Choice alongside movies. The first decision of its kind is a kind of existential victory for the media, which has long been painted worse than film. They slowly become equal, and they overcome decades of sinophilic stigma.
The gaming industry is particularly prepared for this change. Rob Letts, vice president of EA Originals, shared his perspective on the age-old conversation with Digital Trends. EA Originals sticker released It takes two, which is part of its deliberate strategy to support story-based indie games that take clues from the film world. Letts sees a world where the two instruments are happily coexisting.
“Overall, I’m not a fan of movie and game conversation,” Letts tells Digital Trends. “They live in harmony with each other, not in conflict. Movies and video games are both impressive immersive experiences. The line between the game, the social network and the content channel is blurred – and as a result, the two media create different types of experiences in different ways. “
By learning about other art forms, games evolve in a way that only expands what they are capable of. There’s a good chance you’ll go the other way soon, and filmmakers want indie gaming experiences to pick up new tricks.