This should be interesting. The Tribeca Film Festival (that’s Mr. Robert Deniro’s co–concoction for you folks not in the know) and Take Two Interactive has announced that, for the first time ever, a video game will be “featured” at this years festival. The video game in question is the highly anticipated, LA Noire.
LA Noire is Take Two’s follow up to Read Dead Redemption, generally considered to be last years’ Game of the Year. Developed by Team Bondi and Rockstar Studios best know for the Grand Theft Auto series, LA Noire continues Rockstars interest in open world games centered on a period of popular American history. Redemption took place around 1911 during the decline of the American Old West. LA Noire follows former WW II veteran Cole Phelps as he rises through the ranks of the LAPD in 1947. Just as Redemption was a homage to the American Westerns, LA Noire is a homage to the detective novels of Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy and borrows visually from the Hollywood film noir period. Their third “period game” is the highly secretive The Agent which is expected to take place in the 1970’s during The Cold War.
So, why is this so significant? Experiments with Interactivity and immersion is something filmmakers have been exploring for years. The idea that many experimental filmmakers have tried to challenge over the years is the passive nature of sitting down and watching a movie. In film school we read essays all the time on how Hollywood explored a number of wild options. In 1960, Mike Todd, Jr and Hans Laube made a movie called Scent of Mystery which used something called “Smell-O-Vision” to release different smells designed to augment the movie experience. I remember a theater that experimented with buttons attached to theater seats. The idea was to have the audience “vote” on what would happen in the story during the movie. 3D movies is another extension of this idea.
Obviously, these experiments failed (the exception being 3D and the jury is still out on that one) but, the video game industry has clearly succeeded where these radical filmmakers have failed. And, that is the extent of the interest from the film community, that is, creating a movie that requires its audience to be engaged. It’s an interesting idea if you think about it. Whereas, video games have traditionally been interactive puzzles that have, over time, strived to deliver a credible narrative, filmmakers are now showing interest in creating a cinematic narrative that will require its audience to interact with it.
The decision by the Tribeca Film Institute could be viewed as a clever marketing opportunity for both Tribeca and Take Two (and let’s be clear, it is) but one could argue that Tribeca is envisioning an inevitable collision between video games and filmmaking. I think that is a safe bet. Earlier in the year TFI announced a New Media Fund designed to wed traditional filmmaking and new media. According to Beth Janson, executive director of TFI, in a recent Gamasutra article:
“We want to connect filmmakers with developers who understand the two worlds. That’s what’s exciting about this. These two worlds are coming closer and closer together. We definitely want to encourage those sorts of actions… The goal is to really take people who we know as the best moving image story tellers in our world – the film making world – and help them make that leap into other technologies.”
Fast forward to March 29th and this is what Tribeca Enterprises COO, Geoff Gilmore had to say about LA Noire:
“It’s an invention of a new realm of storytelling that is part cinema, part gaming, and a whole new realm of narrative expression, interactivity, and immersion. We are poised on the edge of a new frontier.
It’s a broad focus as new media could mean a number of things but with the recent announcement of LA Noire being featured at their film festival, I think their intentions are obvious. And, Noire is the perfect product. It features many prominent Hollywood actors, (the protagonist is played by Mad Men’s Aaron Staton) in digital roles, and it is an obvious homage to the iconic Hollywood detective genre.
As for Take Two, next to Sony, they have to be my favorite publisher. GTA 4, Borderlands, Bioshock and Red Dead Redemption are four of the best games released this console generation and my personal favorites. They are consistent and careful about what they release. They have a genuine interest in making games that push the medium. The games they publish are smart, mature and focused. Rockstars Studios, in particular, develop games that are often explorations of American culture through a Hollywood cinematic lens. I can’t wait to see what they come up with for LA Noire.