You know, it took ’em about 1o years to come up with a version of the movie Alien 3 that was genuinely good. But a game? Right out of the starting gate. And yet the game industry is plagued with an almost pathological obsession with imitating the film industry. It’s like one of those ’80s teen flicks where some gawky-but-beautiful Molly Ringwald type doesn’t realize until the third act, when someone gives her a makeover, that she’s secretly more beautiful than the rich girls who look down on her. Then again, I did just use a movie simile to describe the situation. Alright, well, keep tryin’, video games.
10 thoughts on “GSJ10: You are… my… lucky… star”
What’s the reference in the title? All I hear in my head is Benny Benassi’s “Cinema” (remixed by Skrillex).
It’s a reference to Alien. Go watch it again! The original is still the best.
I was planning on doing that in preparation for Prometheus, but now I must make it a priority.
Fun fact: I first “saw” Alien when I was 2 years old. My mom and dad went to a drive-in, and put me in a cardboard box in the back seat. It’s one of my earliest memories.
Now how can we get the pathologically obsessed gaming industry to imitate any Molly Ringwald film?
We don’t tell cinematographers to throw away centuries of accumulated knowledge on how to frame an image, rules of proportions or how to imply depth, how to balance color to make an image striking, and countless other techniques artistic techniques taken from older media like photography, painting, music, etc. I don’t understand the predilection of people who write about games to be so hostile about games “aping” films. Every media that has ever come into being has aped the media that’s come before it and has by and large been better because of it.
Because the issue isn’t usually that gamemakers are using cinematic techniques to better their craft; the issue is in the clumsy aping of the end result without consideration of what made it good in the first place.
I would be thrilled if more game developers borrowed from movies in the way cinematographers build upon techniques of still imagery, but I have no interest in yet another thoughtless Alien knockoff. Do you?
Precisely. A lot of game directors seem to be frustrated filmmakers who are content to let their games be a poor man’s movie that sometimes allows you to push buttons to make the plot go forward and forces you to rewatch certain segments until you press them the right way. The end result is things like Modern Warfare campaigns, which practically play themselves for you in service of being cinematic.
There’s no shame in drawing inspiration from other mediums. The shame is in having no ambition beyond that and no grasp of the potential of the medium you’re actually working in.
I kind of get where these criticisms come from, but they still don’t make sense to me. Putting a premium on “interactivity” or “what makes the medium unique” over all else is as limiting to the medium and artistic expression as the things you criticize.
The gut reaction of your average gamer in these parts when confronted with say, a “visual novel” is one of repulsion. “Why don’t I just read a book?” And yes, while the bulk of a visual novel is just block-text, the addition of things like music, imagery, voices, allowing for choice here and there, are all things traditional books don’t allow for and can enhance the experience. The game 999 for example, uses a game mechanic – replaying/new game plus – and integrates that into not just the game, but the game’s story. Replaying the game is essential to seeing the actual ending and understanding the plot. That’s not something that’s even possible in a book, and it’s something that makes a game like 999 an amazing experience. But if you’re caught up on interactivity above all else, you probably didn’t even get three minutes into 999.
Look back at the early days of motion pictures. In the first few decades of film, even after the advent of in-film sound, most directors treated movies as if they were simply recorded stage productions. Static staging, long and wide angles, theatrical acting. Eventually, films like The Wizard of Oz and Citizen Kane demonstrated the potential of film as something separate from theater, and the medium exploded in creativity, scope, and quality. Gaming is still struggling to reach that breakaway point.
Oh man I loved that game. Although I must admit that I preferred parts of the Sega Genesis Alien 3 over the SNES version, if only because it was faster-paced and it had bosses (though the final boss wasn’t a queen). I would have liked the SNES to have a final boss fight, but they show the queen and then pfft. I know it makes sense in light of the movie, but as a game, it was spooky and dark and fun and then ended with an anti-climax.
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