Can Movies Learn From Video Games?

Hey everyone! Hope you all had a good weekend.

Wanted to run something a week out before episode 3 of the podcast, and pose a question to you lovely folks here on WordPress and Twitter.

Over the years, video games have made huge advancements. Outside of their huge reach and many different types of games out there today, games have become presentation masterpieces. Many aspects of games in ways rival that of movies. From the stories they tell, to the orchestral sound tracks, games in many ways have tried to be like movies for some time.

However, I’ve personally started to favour video games much more than the movie going experiences as of late. After the many years that it seems games have been taking notes from Hollywood, I ask you people this question.

Is there anything movies can learn from the modern video game experience?

I certainly have my opinion, but would love to hear yours, and feature them on next week’s podcast. Be sure to drop a comment or hit me up on Twitter with your thoughts.

13 thoughts on “Can Movies Learn From Video Games?

  1. That’s a pretty tough question. A lot of people insist that video games are terrible for telling stories, but that’s not true at all. What happened is that many storytelling techniques we’ve been using for decades or even centuries hit a brick wall in this new medium. I’m reminded of how the original Uncharted had an action sequence that would be perfectly fine in a film when we’re not in control of it, but transplanting it into a video game as is was awkward. Indeed, both Naughty Dog and Quantic Dream have done a great job over the years demonstrating that attempting to turn games into films would only result in a product with all of the trapping of both mediums with very few of their respective advantages to make up for it.

    Conversely, and I think the main reason why those not in the know tend to look down upon the medium’s potential, is because there are a lot of storytelling techniques that either couldn’t exist without that interactive element or suddenly became a lot more versatile in this new medium. A narrative like the one in Undertale or OneShot couldn’t have existed in a non-interactive medium. Similarly, I’ve noticed that many horror games have the tendency to break the fourth wall. Attempting to do that in a film would mostly come across as hokey – even if it was well-made. It’s why that technique is mostly reserved for comedy, as the absurdity of characters being aware they’re in a film can be humorous. In a video game, you yourself play a role in the narrative, so breaking the fourth wall can be quite unsettling in the hands of a skilled writer. Moreover, people are conditioned to accept games as programs that have consistent functions, so if a game isn’t behaving like a game, it invokes something similar to the Uncanny Valley effect.

    All in all, I think the one thing films can learn from video games is something a little more esoteric. For all of the problems the gaming critical circle has had over the years, they aren’t afraid to look at a game such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Undertale, or Portal 2, and declare it among the best of the best. In any other medium, works like that would struggle to get a second look from critics. They might think highly of them, but they likely wouldn’t be crowned “Film of the Year” during Oscar season. Compared to video games, films seem to be more likely to be rewarded for going through the motions. The medium of video games has no such problems going against the grain of what is popularly considered good and giving credit to works that would be snobbishly dismissed in other circles. Therefore, that’s one thing I think films can learn from video games: don’t be afraid of going off the rails and trying something new.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hey man, really appreciated the very thoughtful and in depth answer, and definitely appreciate you looking at both sides of it.

      That is a great point about story telling in general. Story telling has been around since the beginning of mankind essentially. That alone has evolved so much, and games being a relatively new medium, it might take a game alot more to stand out in this regard, since most of it has been done or tried before most likely.

      I do love your closing point about how the 2 mediums are critiqued though. I highly agree with this as I do find films tend to stay in that safe zone and kind of rinse and repeat things more often than games do. Not saying there aren’t games that do this, but as you stated, more recently there are several games that have gone outside that norm and were highly acclaimed for it, which is a beautiful thing really. Change can be hard to accept for some people, so it can be a very risky thing. But when done correctly, well, I think the results speak for themselves.

      Again thanks for providing your thoughts on this.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah, Naughty Dog’s attempts at storytelling (along with the AAA industry’s own in general) involves them touching upon themes that had already been sufficiently covered in films while not really adding anything new outside of the odd curveball here and there. They say there are no new ideas under the sun, but after playing excellent story-heavy games from this decade, I’m not fully convinced that’s the case.

        Gaming criticism has its own problems and to be honest, I would actually argue it’s a weaker circle than that of film criticism. Gaming criticism is either too controlled by publishers or acerbic to the point where no one would take them seriously, including developers. That said, the fact that they’re willing to go against what society deems a good work is one of the very few unequivocal advantages they have over film critics. The comparatively conservative film-critic mentality does leak into gaming criticism whenever Naughty Dog releases something or one totes a narrative with a message they can get behind regardless of its merits as an actual game, but those instances still tend to be the exception, not the rule.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Another good point. I guess that may be why things like the Oscars only ever seem to portray certain types of films usually, at least it does to me.

        Would you say the attitudes and differences in critics from either side might be attributed to possibly the game industry being relatively young compared to movies? Do you think in 50 years, the game industry may possibly be in the same boat in terms of how their critics judge what is deemed as things outside the norm?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. There is a bit more variety than one would think, but otherwise, you’re pretty much right. It’s as though “Oscar winner” could be its own genre.

        I think the medium being relatively young has something to do with it; there are quite a lot of people who know a time before developers started cared storytelling, so the idea of video games being art, even within the sphere, is considered strange to some. For that matter, there are quite a few people who remember a time when the medium didn’t exist at all.

        I can envision gaming criticism down the line suffering from the same problem music criticism did at the end of the twentieth century wherein independent critics regularly dismissed new movements in favor of reminding their children how much better things were back in the day.

        Then again, when the medium matures further, I can also see older works losing their sacred cow status among newer generations when their reputations are no longer being fueled by nostalgia. It has arguably already happened with many beloved eighties games. To wit, Bad Dudes was a popular game back then, but most people attempting to get into it these days would only see a mediocre beat ‘em up with dodgy controls and boring level design.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I think we see that a bit from time to time now. At least back when Metroid Prime was announced. I personally and others were skepetical of going away from the tried and true 2d side scrolling formula, just to be shocked on how great it was. Not entirely the same situation, but in a way similar.

        I guess The Last Jedi definately went through the treatment as well to. It did things quite drastically different, and it seemed to infuriate many fans it seems. I was personally a big fan of what they did, but the sale numbers apparently spoke on how much people did like the new stuff the movie did.

        I think there’s a nice happy spot to be had with any media to not only remember what made old games great and in some cases, still be great, while being open and accepting the new.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s a good question to be asked with this, but it’s not that easy to answer….So, why not try see if we can find some form of solution. (BEWARE FOR I RAMBLE!)

    “Is there anything movies can learn from the modern video game experience?”, I will say yes and no, as while the video games take the medium to an interactive experience, and movies are of a more passive experience, they both in the end are from the same beginning…a written experience. So if video games and movies are essentially books at the beginning, what makes them so vastly different at the end goal in which they are released for us to get our hands on?

    As said, it all comes down to one being an interactive experience and the other a passive. Yet, as Red Metal pointed out Naughty Dog as well as Quantum Dream have tried to make games more like movies (or is it movies more like games?). Games like Undertale, Doki Doki Litterature Club, Metal Gear Solid, OneShot, Mother Series etc. have all dabbled in what other mediums have done before which is Post-Modernism mixed in with breaking the fourth wall. I don’t agree here that movies only uses this for laughter, since Deadpool is the one you quickly can come to mind about it but House of Cards, Ferris Bueler’s Day Off, Goodfellas, Fight Club and even (by the nine I hate to admit it) Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s in the way that the creator chooses to utilize the 4th wall breaking to us the viewer.
    Now what is interesting about this, which also can be brought back to what we initially started with is that this has been there since Shakespear as it was in his plays that it often happened, usually we see it be played out in theatre for the audience to be brought into the world that they are looking into from another side…hence the fourth wall expression.

    So, where does this lead us? Well, in my opinion it’s not about movies having to learn from modern video games as they really are more or less the same. An example here from Naughty Dog is Uncharted, if you stripped away the player interaction from the game it would just be a mediocre action adventure that tries to rival that of Indiana Jones, but because we get to play as Nathan Drake we therefore get to play out the action in a way we believe to be the best path to walk, instead of a director guiding us through his/her idea of the best path.

    I personally have no problems with watching movies, they can offer things a video game cannot and the same goes back to the video game, but we must remember they all start as an idea that begins on page, written by a person who wants you to experience their story.
    Books have also done this with only two I can remember being Lost in the Funhouse by John Barth (1968) and the choose your own adventure books. These choose your own adventure stories are still a niche, you don’t see many of them around but they had a more interactive design made out for the reader to try different path until they either died, got a wrong turn or succeded in defeating the bad guy.

    Even when writing this, I remember that legendary animator Don Bluth animated every sequence that became the well loved, but also furiosly hard arcade game Dragon’s Lair. This was a game that also was more like an animation, yet it played as a game with simple QTE-elements that you needed to have fast reflexes in order to progress or die trying, to which you ended back at the menu screen…only to put in another quarter for another go.

    Movies have before tried this with “4D”, where it blows water and wind in our faces, rocks the chairs to the pace of the movie in order to better immerse us in the story being presented. Back in the day, cinemas even tried to us different smells, but that didn’t work due to the way cinemas was built so the perfumes were always being mixed together which made people get headaches and so on.

    Therefore, I don’t believe that movies can learn anything new from video games as they too while being young, are being played out more like a movie or choose your own adventure book. That is why we can only strive forward to make something that will give the best experience possible for a viewer. Video games are still in what I perceive to be an experimental era, where game designers aren’t afraid to mix things together and see how it plays out. Only through feedback can they see how well the masses are ready for it, if it’s too “old school” or ahead of its time.
    Movies are a medium over 120 years old, it has gone through many experimental faces and to this day is still trying out new things but have more experience as to not rush things. This is why we get a few every year that really can shake us humans to the core with its viewing…a diamond in the rough so to speak. Even ones that later have become more popular due to it having done something that was ahead of its time.

    As not to ramble on anymore and I’m sorry for the long response here mate, but I stand on the path where I can see there’s nothing to worry about and instead look forward to see what new creators might have in store for us viewers in the future….wether it be movies, video games, music, books or art in general. Phases comes and go but it is us that helps it not fly to close to the sun.

    This was a great question to ask and I hope you could use it.
    Stay Cozy and have a nice day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey man! No worries about the long response, the longer the better here! In fact, I’m all about the ramble, and if you’re a wrestling fan, I think we could call this the Royal Ramble 😀

      You bring up many great points. I love being able to ask a question and see everyone really bring in things from both sides that actually make either medium as strong as they are.

      Your comment along with Red Metals really have be going along a different though process. One of the things that keeps coming up is that the video game industry is much younger than the movie industry, and in many ways, is still finding it’s way of doing thing. It could account for all the breakthroughs we see happening in the gaming space vs anything else. There’s more opportunities to try new things in games because not as many people have done those things comparatively.

      That being said, you bring up a good point that I heard on a podcast to, and that is movies tend to have less, but bigger releases each year compared to games. Finding that great memorable movie seems harder possibly because of this hence the term you bring up, diamond in the rough.

      Do you think say, in 120 years, games might be in the same place? Right now, we are getting more games thrown at us than we can keep up with, it’s insane! Movies on the other hand, there’s a more manageable amount it seems, let’s not take into account the time investment each requires, we’re just talking sheer quantity. Could you see it come to a point where there are only a handful of videogames in a given year? Given how gaming is split into the few AAA experiences vs the many indie titles, it could be possible, but curious on your thoughts?

      again thanks for providing the in depth answer and glad you enjoyed this question.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Now that is hard to answer, as I have no idea how business is made in 120 years within the video game industry, but I would love to think that it has improved immensely. So while video games are being crammed out in an amount at the same rate that we humans throw trash out to make an actual island in the ocean. Then at some point it will get better, but I also see the vast amount of games being made and put out on sites like GameJolt as more of a project or something for their personal portfolio that can score a chance at making bigger games in the future.
        Are there too many games? Yes, but we are also 8 billion people in the world where my guess is almost 40% play video games on a daily basis. So quite many will be covered but might not see the light of the day it needs.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. To clarify, I meant that breaking the fourth wall is mostly used for comedy in films. There are indeed a few non-comedies that broke the fourth wall to a great effect, but I feel it’s a storytelling trope that’s more versatile in video games.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah I agree with you mate, might have taken it a bit too far after I read your answer first 🙂

        Still, I do believe a good designer/writer/director would know how to utilize this trope to a great effect, that some might not even catch after a couple of watches. I have even heard rumors that big licensed movies have something like an easter egg tugged in between frames of the movie that’s between 1 and 3 hours.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I honestly can’t remember the last movie I watched. Video games are always my favourite medium. I don’t think movies can ever capture the interactive experience that video games have.


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