damonpackwood

Editorial: The Influence of Video Games on Narrative, Part 2

In Film, video games on August 13, 2010 at 1:10 am

TODAY’S INCEPTION

At the time, those games were very popular amongst a niche group of people and today they still are, although video games as an industry are everywhere (computers, phones, social networking sites, etc). But, the influence of these games and the innovation they’ve brought to story telling is just starting to show. And, they are becoming a part of both present and future entertainment in ways that I’ll illustrate below.

Inception is currently one of the greatest examples. Although, it remains to be seen whether Christopher Nolan was directly influenced by computer entertainment, the gaming press have jumped all over this movie ever since it was released. Game journalist Stephen Totillo of Kotaku has written a few posts that stood out for me. He wrote his movie review of Inception the same way he reviews video games: describing what he loved and hated using gamer vocabulary (modding, boss battle, platforming). The reason was to illustrate how comfortable your typical gamer would be in a world that Roger Ebert called “wholly original, cut from new cloth.” Totilo even implies that the language most used to describe a video game may be best suited to describe Inception. His second piece, “Did Video Games Help Me Accept Inception’s Ending”, illustrates this point best. Without spoiling the ending, Inception offers the audience a finale with two possibilities. Whether you’ve seen it or not you’ve no doubt heard people pontificating about its ending. Everyone has an opinion vigorously backed up by scenes from the film.

However, implicit in Totilo’s essay is for a gamer both endings happen. In some video games the player is given choices that he or she knows in advance will impact the game’s ending. Take title inFamous, for example. You play as a bike messenger who got duped into delivering a bomb that not only levels his city but turns him into a guy with super powers (don’t laugh, Sony Pictures is working on the movie. You might be paying ten bucks for this in the near future). One of the major features in the game is to provide the player with choice between good decisions and bad decisions to determine what type of character you want this guy to be, a super hero or a villain. Through the course of a game like this, the player makes choices knowing full well what type of ending they’re going to get. Not the exact ending of course but a rough idea. According to Totilo, a gamer accepts the ending they got based on the choices they made. The same can be said of Inception. The movie is so open for interpretation that one makes their own decision of how it ended based on their interpretation of what they saw – very similar to a video game.

Inception may not have been influenced by video games but the language of video games has definitely brought a unique perspective to the conversation about its narrative. Art developer for upcoming “choice driven” game Deus Ex: Revolution, Jonathan Jacques Belletete says something that illustrates my point in an interview with Gamasutra:

[It] is all about the things you might miss. At first, to be honest, it was hard to convince the team [replace with Hollywood executives?] and say, “Yeah, you’re building this,” because they’d say, “Yeah, but the player [cue, audience?] might not see it.” It’s not about that.
What it’s about is the consequence of choice, letting them [the audience member] play [watch] the fantasy [movie] the way they want, letting them explore the maps [dreams?] and find creative ways to achieve their objectives [decide the ending?].
This is the heart of the experience.

You can check out The Influence of Video Games on Narrative, Part 3 here.

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