21 September 2010

Throwdown: games versus film - by Nathan Kil

      Posted 09/19/10 03:35:00 am  

As my first blog post, I will attempt to keep this as straight-arrow and to-the-point as possible...

Games versus Film as a medium of expression:

Two industries that work ultimately towards a similar goal are the film and gaming industries. Over the course of the last 15 years I have watched as the games I've played have become more engrossing in both story execution, with production values presently on-par with blockbuster films. While advances in technology have allowed gaming to become more of a main-stream and widely accepted recreation, it's quite possibly the most compelling medium of creative expression in my own personal opinion.

My personal experiences with film are being that I have worked directly in the industry now as a professional audio engineer, sound designer and primarily a composer for a number of years. It's a fortunate job to have, but it also gives quite a view into the collaborative creation process.

Whether it's working on a commercial from a large advertising agency here in New York or working with a small film with a skeleton crew of volunteers, the outcome is arguably always the same. That outcome is that a piece of media is created to express a concept.

The experience is entirely driven by the filmmaker, writers, creatives, directors, composers, sound designers, and in many cases the client themselves. When it's over, everyone says a cheers and the project wraps, moving on to another. You can always look back and say, "I worked on that!" But the moment a project finishes, it becomes a piece of history. Nothing more.

My personal experiences with games are from the consumer side. Being in my late twenties, I've enjoyed games from the early days of the Commodore Amiga all the way up to modern console and PC/Mac gaming. To this date, I reminisce on games of my past and present alike.

At times I will have open discussions with colleagues and family members about games played when we were children. These are experiences that, while to some extent are driven by the developers of said games, the actual experience alone is interactive. Such is the very nature of gaming. 

And so now my contention after all of these years is quite simple; games, as a form of creative expression and media, are far more engrossing than any film. Games engage the player in the storyline, in the characters, in the action, in the strategy.

While there are plenty of games which can put you into a coma through their mindlessness, it still engages the player. Other games - adventure, RTS, RPGs, MMOs, engage the player as though they were reading a book. Correction, as if they were writing a book within the context of a setting/world. Films can not match this level of interaction. 

With gaming being mainstream now (long gone are the days of being ridiculed for being a gamer), many regard those who work in the gaming industry as far more creative than those who work in the film industry. And it's a tough argument to counter.

The best games deliver an interactive experience with a narrative that directly involves the player in creation of the experience. Some examples off of the top of my head of such experiences:

- Dungeon Master (Atari or Amiga versions)

- The Legend Of Zelda 

- Final Fantasy series

- almost every Blizzard game

- DOOM (and subsequently, id Software's other releases)

- Half-Life series

I am, clearly, leaving many off of this list for the sake of trying to keep this broad. However, even in the most broad sense, you'd be hard pressed to find a compelling argument over films being more engrossing than games.

The other aspect of gaming that I believe is finally at the level of cinema is the audio/visual production. Starcraft 2 was alleged to be a 100 million dollar title. Whatever the real figure, when you play it, you see it. You hear it. You feel it. What's more, and what's also true to games in most senses, are that they have re-playability.

Films are re-playable, but you will never get a different outcome. You might see something new, but films are, by the very nature of their medium, always going to be the same every time you watch them. 

To conclude, I would put gaming as the not-so-new, but dark-horse premier medium for creative expression. Whether it's a big budget title or a small independently developed game that pushes the boundaries of gaming "norms", the games industry will (in my opinion) always stand head and shoulders above films.

A side-note: Perhaps for films to compete, they should become more interactive. Much more easy to do now that more people are consuming their films and television via internet outlets (big shout for Hulu), and just imagine if a film was shot with multiple outcomes of various situations, and engrossed the audience to make decisions during the movie? 

...oh wait, that's what games have been doing for about a quarter of a century.

Please share your opinion on this topic!

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