When Videogames Ape Movies

  • Videogames are a special kind of medium. Not only can we watch and listen to videogames play out as part of our entertainment, but we can control them by inputting and pressing commands on a gaming pad to make progress and interact. This connection between the audio, the visual and the kinetic makes videogames a complete medium for our immersion in digital entertainment.

    This glowing specialty videogames gives us is something that has been put to truly awe-inspiring use over the decades. From the phenomenon of Pong, to the sensational impact of the Nintendo Wii, propelling games into a medium that can be beneficial to physical health, videogames continue to innovate and inspire, demonstrating just how versatile and exciting videogames can be.

    However, the love affair that exists between games and films is the strongest we've seen since this affection arose prominently during the fifth generation. Yes, games have been taking cues from films since the beginning, but the fifth generation gave us epic cinematic experiences we'd never seen before. Final Fantasy VII gave us deep storytelling and a cast of deep characters, Metal Gear Solid gave us a stealth action adventure that overpowers the system it ran on, and both Silent Hill and Resident Evil gave us horror experiences dripping viscously in dread.

    Today, we see cinematic gaming experiences all over the place in the form of FMV games like Late Shift and Telling Lies, David Cage/Quantic Dream QTE-riddled dramatic adventures like Heavy Rain, Beyond Two Souls and Detroit: Become Human, as well as Supermassive Games' horror experiences like Until Dawn, The Dark Pictures Anthology and The Quarry.

    The main point of contention with this drench of cinematic games, is they empower the film experience over and above the game experience. Heck Supermassive releases have a "Movie Mode," where you can watch the games from beginning to end with no controller inputs required.

    On top of this, these cinematic dramas swim garishly in the hideously deranged Uncanny Valley. Heavy Rain began this plunge with the amazing highly detailed facial models and the decadent sheen accentuating every facial muscle and expression, ensuring you marvel at those gruff strands of facial hair on Ethan Mars and wincing at the podgy flab on Detective Shelby’s cheeks. Much like Disney shamelessly turning their classic animations into repulsive CGI hack jobs, David Cage and Quantic Dream would rather polish the visual details in their games, than make compelling and meaningful videogames.

    This isn’t to say I don’t see the pleasures in Quantic Dream games. I relish the fact they’re big 10 hour or so rampages through chase and QTE sequences, intense situations and messy storyline paths. Regardless of what you may think of their preachiness with Cage’s ceaseless talk of emotions, when you play a QD game, you know you’re in for a rollercoaster ride filled with decimating skyscraper-levelling TNT...like you’d see in action movie.

    Supermassive’s latest The Quarry makes no bones about what it is and what it’s trying to achieve. The Quarry and Supermassive’s other efforts want you to engage in rose-tinted teenage horror in a manner whereby every choice has consequences and can lead to grisly and gruesome death for the cast members. Much like Quantic Dream’s efforts, The Quarry feels like a thrillride containing minimalistic gameplay interactions, but fancy visual effects and more of those repulsive uncanny valley faces.

    In defence of Supermassive, they know what they want to achieve and what they have achieved isn’t just a single-player experience, but one can be shared with friends. The Quarry (as well as The Dark Pictures Anthology beforehand), revel in the popcorn and soda movie nights with friends activity-and thus they’ve made The Quarry that kind of game. You turn up with friends of food, you all sit down in the living room, turn the lights off, and get rolling on a trippy teen horror adventure that has many twists and turns. It’s really inspired stuff, but if I’m brutally honest, it’s tame and unremarkable despite being good entertainment.

    Part of what makes traditional videogame horror works is that you can go at your own pace, unearth the game’s dingy secrets and frights. With Supermassive’s Efforts, you are usually only interacting during cutscenes, or when the game lets you off its leash, stomping around the area collecting letters and secrets. You don’t have the agency to run away yourself from threats or to be resourceful, your engagements are reduced to option A or option B. I’m convinced also that people won’t care as much about what happens in The Quarry if their interactions are minimised to picking choices and scooping up stuff that’s lying about.

    Back in 2015, Until Dawn felt like a breath of fresh air, but all these years later a true evolution hasn’t been sought, so all Supermassive are producing is the same recipe as before with different ingredients; still dang entertaining ingredients, but the pedestrian gameplay core doesn’t make for invigorating intensity and may make you lackadaisical when you trudge through it.

    Remember a little big third-person shooter that came out in 2015 called The Order: 1886. This was a Ready At Dawn-developed steampunk opus influenced by the Knight of the Round Table, pairing 19th century London with gothic horror sensibilities. This knight had noble intentions but found itself the victim of the trebuchet thanks to its brief length, lack of features and you guessed it-an overly cinematic presentation.

    The Order is something of a tragic case, it was at heart a pretty good game that just happened to undo itself by emerging as a largely film-like videogame. Yes, it had competent third-person shooting, but the excessive gloss and the brief length only made us think it was primarily designed to be looked at rather than played.

    The moral of the story here is don’t insult our intelligence. The industry’s attempts to obfuscate videogames by dumping loads of filmic effects and explosiveness in front of our faces, is nothing short of drearily wearisome. You can make The Quarry look like Marvel’s Avengers, but that’s not going to make it a good game to play, and to be quite harsh The Quarry isn’t a good game to play, because it is too busy trying to look great to be compelling. With that being said, games will not bend to the whims of movies and those developers who do decide to turn their games into watchable or unwatchable flicks-just know your cards are marked.