Could video games ever replace film?

You may think this is a pretty stupid question, and it honestly it probably is. It’s ridiculous to think that one form of popular media could replace another one – that’s like saying eventually nobody would eat Corn Flakes because Frosties are nicer.

Which they totally are.

It wasn’t until I played through L.A. Noire that the thought actually occurred to me. L.A. Noire is a film noir inspired (Duh) detective game set in L.A. (double duh). What makes the game so unique is that it uses special face mapping software to generate the characters faces rather than have some shmuck animate it. What this means is that the faces of the characters actually look like real human faces – and not like weird, demented sub-human creatures.

This makes the game one of a kind, because it makes game world and characters who inhabit it feel real. I have to admit  as a gamer I can be somewhat impatient – I’m the kind of jackass who skips through the dialogue and cut scenes to get to the real meat of the game. L.A. Noire is one of the few games that has changed how I play – Instead of just wanting to blast through, I actually took the time to follow the story, and adjust how I played the game accordingly.  It’s one of the few games that actually made me care about the characters and story. (Although in hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have bothered because the story was a pile of shit.)

It makes me sound like a bit of a shallow prick saying that I can only appreciate a good story if the games graphics are amazing – and that’s not true. Many games have told fantastic stories despite graphical shortcomings (Final Fantasy 7, Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid) – but you have to admit  they are much less accessible to the average person, and it  requires quite a bit more imagination to relate to a polygon than it does a real human being.

“Ahhh, takes me back to the days when my forearms were hoofs.”

Graphics are improving, and fast. Just take a look at what this current generation is really capable of – who knows where we’ll be in 10-20 years. How long will it be before we have the ability to produce photo-realistic games? Games that are indistinguishable from life? Games that look like films.

Many of the more ‘innovative’ movies are simply innovative because they are trying to be more than just a film. See Timecode, Memento, Run Lola Run. All try to challenge the viewer, all try to get the viewer involved – all try to be interactive; you know, like a bloody game. We are seeing an increase of films trying to be games, and games trying to be films. When a Director attempts to push film in a new direction, all they are really doing is retracing the steps taken by video games. Of course these innovations are very hit and miss, Timcode is an atrocity of a film, and L.A. Noire doesn’t really hold up as a game. It will be a while before we create the perfect hybrid of video game and film, but what happens when we do?

What happens when we can create a lifelike, realistic world, filled with realistic characters and stories, that is 100% interactive? A film that is completely controlled by the player. Would film critics want to play this? Would gamers?

6th sense

It’s just something to think about really – I personally think that films are something that will never die, at least not for a very long time. Playing a video game and watching a film are two totally different experiences, and even though the two are becoming increasingly similar, they will never, ever be the same.

Still, as a sort of future proofing method, theatres should probably start thinking about setting up screening rooms specifically designed for LAN parties. You know, just in case.

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2 responses to “Could video games ever replace film?

  1. At the time, Final Fantasy 7 and Metal Gear Solid had amazing graphics. They might not have aged so well, but I wouldn’t say they have graphical shortcomings. Those polygons and pre-rendered backdrops used to be amazing.

    Responding to your main focus, though, I think that certain moods lend themselves well to one experience or the other. If I’ve had a really draining day, I’d rather watch something than totally engage with it. Just because one form of art completely encompasses another doesn’t make it superior, just different. Comic books aren’t inherently better than novels, for example.

    • Yeah at the time the graphics were amazing, but it still required a lot of imagination because even though the graphics were the best we had ever seen, it still wasn’t comparable to real life. (I know something doesn’t have to be realistic for people to relate to it (cartoons, anime etc.) it’s just when it comes to recreating the feel of an actual live action film, it wasn’t happening.)

      As for your other point, I completely agree – it’s just interesting to muse these things. Thanks for the reply!

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