The games industry is becoming quite a monster. Just last week we reported how Resident Evil 5 had pretty much outsold everything apart from Mother’s Day cards in the UK. Remarkably, this came as no real surprise to anybody that has been following the growth of the sector over the past year or two, which says a hell of a lot for the confidence that is flowing through the industry in 2009.
The film industry, in particular, appears to be suffering as a direct result. Music has been in trouble for a long time – blame stubborn major record labels for that – but film has managed to ride a technological storm that is now slowly (but surely) transforming the business into a so-called “dinosaur”. Games are closing the gap – both financially and contextually – becoming, in many people’s eyes, the natural successor to Hollywood. After all, who would argue that Grand Theft Auto IV, for example, doesn’t offer a more worthwhile narrative and dramatic experience than most of today’s movies?
But while video games are constantly evolving and selling like hotcakes, bucking the global economic downturn, there are a few valid reasons why films have the upper hand over a sector that still hasn’t touched on the right nerve of the global masses. Here are three (or maybe four) of them:
- Pre-release fanboy bickering
I don’t have to tell you how frustrating it can be to enjoy a perfectly decent article about an upcoming title, only to then scan over the proceeding ‘comments’ section to find a whole host of utter bile.
Before a game has even been played, sometimes even prior to a trailer being released, a section of the gaming community will jump to criticize it in ways that belong in the playground with seven or eight year-olds. Inevitably, this leads to the defense team taking to the stand before the showdown commences, continuing until the game is finally released. Incidentally, this is when it can actually be judged fairly but, as we know, the insane amount of delusion displayed won’t stop there.
The film industry is not the victim of such hysteria. People usually become intrigued with a movie when it is announced and then form a judgment based on reviews or (shock! horror!) when they have actually seen it. Then the arguments can (and will) commence, but by then it’s fair game. Everybody has the right to an opinion but it should be based on fact rather than blind hope.
I guess not having specific formats to watch films on leads to a greater sense of togetherness but, even so, why do many gamers act as if they have shares in Sony/Microsoft? Don’t get me started on Peter Molyneux and Cliffy B.
It makes us all look bad.
- Gamers don’t have a “cinema”
While, admittedly, I can’t speak for (please enlighten me) anywhere outside of the UK, it strikes me that while games are fast becoming one of the most popular forms of entertainment everywhere, they are still restricted on a social level.
You can go out on a Friday night with a group of friends to see a movie and have a jolly old time indeed, no problem. But what if you fancy kicking the living daylights out of a bunch of people on FIFA 09? Or running around like a madman surviving the zombie hordes on Left 4 Dead? Oh, that’s right, you get some friends around with a few tins or play alone, online.
The thing is, this is one of the driving forces behind people believing that gaming is an unsociable activity. And maybe it’s true. Perhaps if forms of “gaming centres” were opened up we would be able to go out, have a good time with friends and then make pals with random people. It’d make a nice change from sitting around in your room screaming abuse into a headset.
Maybe then the general population would feel more inclined to give games a try. It could sweep the nation/world like Bingo! I’m not talking about arcades either. The last time I walked into one of those it was like a members club run by some sweaty, vest-wearing, slick-haired yob who wanted no more for me than a lost pound in a broken Time Crisis 4 machine. I’m thinking cinema-sized arcades of epic proportions.
Maybe girls would go.
- Less and less “stars” being generated
Is it just me or are we running out of recognizable faces in our games?
Back in the “day” we had Mario, Sonic, Lara Croft and Earthworm Jim. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But they’re still around today!” That’s right – well apart from Jim, the coolest of the bunch – but do you believe that this is a good thing for the gaming world? Not really, it only goes to show non-gamers (film-goers, you understand) that gaming hasn’t moved on since the 1990s and is, therefore, a one-trick pony.
New movie stars are being pumped out all the time. Lining our silver screens and pages in glossy magazines and helping to sell films globally, these actors and actresses are helping to keep Hollywood fresh. It relies on these people to stay afloat, while gaming relies too heavily these days on greater graphics and higher frame rates. It’s not exactly the most inviting environment for somebody new to the experience. People need a come-and-get-me face to lure them to the Promised Land, not an impressive number of light sources.
Niko Bellic is an example of a refreshing character being introduced into gaming. He doesn’t follow the same tried and tested formula that seems to define many others out there today. On first impression his look is plain and generic, but take a second look and his features tell a story of their own, his mannerisms and personality helping to draw the audience in like a good actor would. His “everyman” image was reminiscent of Taxi Driver’s De Niro, free of bells and whistles; no need for a six-foot plasma gun to grab our attention. Rockstar’s effort in creating this icon made all the difference.
Putting some thought into a new character, whether it be the human qualities of Niko or Daxter’s pilot goggles, really makes a difference when you are trying to create a bond between product and audience. Far too often these days we are patronized with a skinhead marine with the kind of vocabulary his mother didn’t teach him and the emotional pull of a lamp post.
You can’t be bad at watching films, therefore they will always be more accessible and acceptable. Come to think of it, video games probably deserve to be compared with table tennis rather than films. Next up: “Reasons why table tennis lacks the integrity of video games.”
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