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Editorial: Maybe Games Shouldn't Adopt Movie Trends

Last week, I responded to a Capital New York article by Steven Boone, perhaps vainly attempting to simultaneously defend the video game industry and support the ideas broached by Boone (and echoed by Ebert in a follow-up Tweet).

Since then, Boone has posted a new article including feedback from myself and GameSpot's Carolyn Petit. He concludes by wondering if he's not "projecting the sins of film critics onto the game industry." He also starts by referring to the way in both movies - and now games - are marketed to mass audiences. Essentially, he's saying what I've been saying for several years: Either the marketing/advertising experts only think Americans have the attention spans of hamsters, or we really do have such gnat-like attention spans.

Hence, the rapid-fire method of showing you a video entertainment product. Gamers have probably noticed that as games have started to look more realistic (i.e., more like movies), and as the industry has shifted to focus on a mainstream mass audience, we're seeing such flashy trailers and video clips that refuse to keep a camera in one place for more than half a second. Boone further uses my comments and Petit's to show that in fact, critics can and most often are crucial to sales, and most of us are far more intrigued by the "poets" in comparison to the "killers." I noted that critics very often reward the artistic, the philosophical, and to some extent, the ethereal.

What's important to take away from this is as follows: The more games start mirroring the movie industry - in how they're created, in who they're targeting, and in how they're marketed - the more gamers may get lost in the shuffle. At first, I thought this was a good thing; I thought it would allow our industry to blend with an established and (mostly) respected industry, thereby giving us more exposure. And while that may happen, it's not the kind of exposure I want. I think video games are currently in a more progressive state than movies. I think interactive entertainment is the wave of the future, and simply following film's well-trodden route means we lose distinction and uniqueness.

Boone was interested in learning about why gamers responded to his article about how The Last Of Us left little to the imagination. He wanted to know more about the role critics play in this industry, and clearly has had an interest in gaming in the past. This should prove that not everyone outside this industry looks down on us (although it can often feel that way); it merely shows that we are different and that is precisely what makes us special. That's an especially corny way of saying it, but I believe we need to celebrate the unique elements of interactive entertainment rather than simply adopting the current trends of movies.

Maybe that's how we'll make our mark.

P.S. I have to add that when I was talking about a game we "need" - one of the quotes in Boone's article - I was referring to The Last Guardian. But no harm done; we need The Last Of Us, too, if only to prove that it has more intelligence and soul than certain trailers and footage lead us to believe.

Tags: video games, gaming industry, gaming culture, movie industry, steven boone

6/30/2012 3:06:17 PM Ben Dutka

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Legacy Comment System (9 posts)

Saturday, June 30, 2012 @ 4:35:38 PM

I don't know if there's anything wrong with trailers being flashy, quick, or exciting. Unless it's a gameplay trailer, I don't think they can afford to spend too much time in one scene anyway, especially if it's a commercial ad. Perhaps you are looking into this much deeper than I am, but I don't see how presenting a game in ads like movies will take away any uniqueness. I mean I can see how this would be if games looked exactly like real life, and showing zero gameplay or gameplay experiences, but they can't afford to that if they're trying to cater to the gamers.

I think there will always be a fine line between games and movies, and they won't ever cross or even get near it, in my opinion. As long as games can be played with a controller, or us controlling in any way, games will continue to be its own (apart from movies). This is why games like Journey, Mario, LBP, or basically anything not Call of Duty related is important to the gaming industry, because they are the ones that show that games are more than just shooting and killing and more importantly, keep that uniqueness from movies.

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Saturday, June 30, 2012 @ 8:03:23 PM

The problem as I see it is that those brief TV commercial style ads are easily edited together to make the product look like something it is not, either intentionally or unintentionally. You could easily make The Last of Us look like an action shooter when it really isn't. Gamers know that because we follow the news, people just watching a trailer wouldn't know, hence the confusion over why people cheered at the closing scene of violence.

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Sunday, July 01, 2012 @ 6:10:36 AM


Points well taken on tv ads and trailers being edited to convey something the product is not. Probably the most blatant recent example of this was that first Dead Island trailer. That trailer got a huge reaction from gamers by showing an extremely emotional and desperate struglle with the undead from a simple family's perspective done in an extremely gritty and suspensulful way.

The whole problem with that trailer is you get nothing like that trailer in the actual Dead Island game itself. The trailer isn't indicative of the gameplay but what it is really guilty of is misrepresenting is the tone and atmosphere of the the game.

Games have come a long way as an entertainment medium but one area they have a long way to go in terms of catching up with Holywood is writing, and dialogue. The storytelling in most games has been average. Even some of the better stories we get as gamers would be considered B movie material at best and have been buthchered with awful writing and dialogue. Gaming publisher's could use much better writers in their studios.

Last edited by Excelsior1 on 7/1/2012 6:16:07 AM

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Saturday, June 30, 2012 @ 5:26:26 PM

I'd say thar be two issues here - that of how games are advertised, and that of how games are actually designed.

On the advertised side of things, as far as I can recall, advertising for games has always been fairly quick-cutting and flashy. If anything, as the medium has progressed, the cuts have become longer, as the relatively simpler gameplay of the past didn't translate as well into televised entertainment. Game trailers on Youtube (where they have a bit more time than on TV) can have individual scenes that last as long as older gaming ads. Of course, the camera style these days is generally far more 'Michael Bay', no getting around that.

As for actual gameplay and design, I think things are just fine. While there is a school of game design that mirrors the big budget, ADHD movies, it's only one school. Civilization V:Gods and Kings is hardly a linear, quick scene game, nor is ArmA 3, Mass Effect 3, Journey, Flower, or even Warhammer 40K:Space Marine. And I think interactivity helps insulate gaming from ADHD trends - in film, the constant cutting is to hold attention, where in gaming that's largely achieved by interactivity, and so requires less flash and dazzle in the presentation.

Just thoughts of course - the discussion between you and Boone is an excellent one :).

Last edited by Axe99 on 6/30/2012 5:27:08 PM

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Saturday, June 30, 2012 @ 5:30:10 PM

The studio system is broken, this is news? There are however a wealth of independent films out there due to a freeing of budgets due to technology today and movements rising around the world.

Games, well we as consumers need to proactively support the smaller guys out there. The small gems that come out on say PSN that mirror the same situation with film I think. Creativity everywhere right now is getting stifled.

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Saturday, June 30, 2012 @ 8:00:21 PM

I give Boone credit for being engaged instead of passing judgement and moving on. Critics are probably so used to being bamboozled by movie trailers that they assume games are committing the same sins.

They should add gaming awards at the Oscars, best voices, best technicals etc.

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Sunday, July 01, 2012 @ 3:36:13 AM

Games aren't movies plain and simple. One day when the actual gameplay mirrors that of the CGI cut scene then that will be a different story. Even the trailer for FFXIII hardly showed you the actual game when you are playing it.

I suppose I'm from a different breed where I could really care less about how visual and realistically designed the cut scenes are. I judge the strength of a game based on reviews and articles (like this site) but most of all how much "in-game" footage is ACTUALLY shown in the trailers to advertise said product.

Last edited by Amnesiac on 7/1/2012 3:41:01 AM

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Sunday, July 01, 2012 @ 5:21:06 AM

depends on what type it is really.
theres certainly things the gaming industry can learn from hollywood and vice versa.
just gotta make sure your getting your inspiration from the right place..........

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Monday, July 02, 2012 @ 4:08:52 PM

Trailers should show the game being played. Not show the cutscenes. You're selling a game, not a movie. And do not put unreleated thing sin the trailer to establish mood or generalness. One trailer shwoed a chicken avoiding being killed. The game had nothign to do with this. Just thta a revolutionw as coming. Apparently, using a chicken was suppsoed to make me want to play a game that ahd nothing to do with chicken. I did not buy the game. Why should I? I knew nothing about it, just that the game would invovle fighting in a revolution. Not good enough.

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