I just beat Modern Warfare 3 (a little late, I know) the other day and it got me thinking about how much Hollywood had affected video games today. As time inches on, we are seeing an increase in games becoming more simplified and following an almost formulaic system when it comes to story progression. It may be true that there are no new stories, but with a medium like video games, interactive storytelling, shouldn’t developers at least be able to tell these stories in a different way. So why aren’t they?
As more and more fans flock to their Xbox’s to play MW3, we’ve also seen more and more gamers complaining about the quality of said product. Some could argue that this is because Infinity Ward was kicked off the project, but others could say that it’s because after three (not including the other games by Treyarch) iterations, the formula is starting to become tired. A lot of these arguments could apply to the online aspect, but I’m talking about the single player campaign. These complaints don’t just apply to MW3, but also Mass Effect 3, and Uncharted 3 as well. I’m sure there’s another article in here about the fact that these are all “threequels”, but its not this one.
So, with these games being cinematic in nature and very story driven, I have to wonder if their Hollywood influences aren’t the cause. Over the past ten years, we’ve seen an abundance of trite movie ideas come across the big screen, a lot of which have been recycled from a past decade. We watch them and moan, and then we go watch the next one a week later. So few movies break out of this cycle and only a few do it well enough to not be criticized. With so many poorly reviewed movies making tons of money, it brings a stark reality to the table. We pay to have these films made by going to see movies that aren’t that great. We vote for Resident evil 5, by going to see 3 and 4.
This same mentality works with video games. With as many as I’ve played, it’s still the same old; get to the castle, beat the enemy, discover the princess is in another castle. You may think this doesn’t apply to Call of Duty or anything other than Mario, but it does. Get to the checkpoint, defeat the enemy and discover the next checkpoint. Granted, this is generalized, but it’s a similar generalization that makes so many movies boring. It makes perfect sense that kids, who grew up as products of our entertainment driven society are now growing up to create entertainment. They were all raised with movies and video games, so it makes sense that one would influence the other. It’s logical to think that people would be drawn to a Call of Duty with its over the top action sequences and grand set pieces after growing up with Diehard and Independence Day. Video game developers are a lot like us. They are all indoctrinated by the idea of being action heroes like Arnold and Sly. Can you blame them?
If you’ve been playing games as long as I have, then you saw this trend beginning as far back as the 3DO, and earlier (Ah the joy of youth, keep going till you hit the C64 Ed.). I remember a game called the 7th guest. I couldn’t have been much older than ten at the time, but this game had photo realistic cut scenes. This style continued until the Playstation came out and 3D models became the accepted norm. For years, developers have been pushing and striving for a more vivid, reality based style of game, but with that comes a few problems.
Heavy Rain came out in 2010. While there are older games that followed the same ideas, this one was more widely recognized and thus earns a mention here. When Heavy Rain came out, the critics loved it, giving it an 87 over on Metacritic. The general public, while respecting the game, didn’t love it as much, giving it a 6.8. Whilst some might argue that the user scores on Metacritic are pretty useless, it helps to make a point here. Heavy Rain was a well crafted, interesting game, but the masses, who have been spoon fed Hollywood their entire lives just couldn’t get into it.
Another problem is violence. When Mortal Kombat released, it was plagued with all sorts of controversy. Other games have been targeted, but Mortal Kombat gained exceptional consideration because of the realistic representations of violence. Before we knew better, Mortal Kombat looked amazingly realistic, and parents and politicians went ballistic over it. With more reality come more problems.
Therefore, it makes sense that games are so influenced by Hollywood. Mortal Kombat came out two years after a movie called Total Recall (considered at it’s time to be the most violent movie ever). This movie released with positive reviews and garnered no controversy, but Mortal Kombat was a game and kids play games. Today, games look much different than they used to. While most still have that basic Mario layout, the cinematic (see that word there?) experience makes it ok for people and children to play them. Now, it’s more like watching an interactive movie, rather than playing a game.
Video games and movies have run parallel for while now, both feeding off the same technology to create amazing visuals and experiences. As the two continue to grow, we will see even more melding as they create more movie like games and more realistic CG in film. Just as bad movies keep being made, so will these over the top, AAA block buster video games. With games like COD:MW3 releasing to record sales, there will be less inovation on the horizon and more by-the-numbers games being released. The question for you, the reader, is; are you ok with this, or should we go back to days of innovation and creativity? Its your dollar, so you get to decide, but my advice is simple. Stop pr
e-ordering, and wait. Find out if a game/film is worth your hard earned dollar, and save us all from another ridiculous movie or game that only gets made because it sells.