Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What Hollywood Knows that Video Games Industry Doesn't

The article where Rockstar's Dan Houser voices his appreciation for the lack of respect is over here at website. The argument is that the low profile of video games have prevented things from becoming codified as it has in traditional media like TV and film, allowing for creative freedom.

I would think perhaps 'refinement' is a better word in the case of the traditional media, which video games seem to be lacking in large quantities.

As for "creative freedom," I'm at a loss as to what that might mean, since I am unable to observe a great deal of creative originality that (one would expect) would result from such freedom.

The successful people of Hollywood know that artistic freedom in film does not mean a lot when you forget to put the singularly most essential ingredient in a movie. No make-up wonders, no CGI wizardry, no sets and no props will save a movie from being a total dog when it fails to deliver on the primary attribute: storytelling. No story, no movie. (Compare The Dark Knight or Batman Begins to previous Batman movies with Val Kilmer and George Clooney, and you'll see what I mean)

Things might be said to have become codified on that front, but for the purpose of supporting that primary goal. Storytelling has long been an art form, and those traditional media have almost perfected the techniques of its delivery.

When you apply that lesson to video games, that essential, primary ingredient becomes gameplay. Again, just like in movies, no amount of graphical awesomeness, no celebrity voice-acting, and certainly no advertising genius will save you from the contempt of gamers who had paid 60 bucks for a total dog.

Today's games have, perhaps, a great amount of artistic creativity in them, but not so much where it counts. There is not enough game in video games anymore. While the said artistic freedom might benefit the artist himself or herself by allowing for a more diversified professional portfolio, it does very little to advance the medium itself to its rightful place.

Let me finish with a direct comparison: if Hollywood did things like the video games industry, we would have seen some 15 versions of the same The Matrix movie by now, all with exactly the same story and script but with different make-up schemes, different special effects, different actors and such.

Great for the artists. Not so great for the audience or the medium.

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