Should Video Games Copy Cinema?

The large-scale hype created for video games is a major pre-release ambition for the developers of the so-called “blockbuster” video games. They aim to create the highest level of interest and excitement in their product in an attempt to boost pre-orders and general sales of their game, and the main tool they utilise is the trailer. But an increasing number of games now, in addition to producing in-engine trailers for their game, produce “Hollywood” style trailers, with live action and actors being used. The Call of Duty franchise is renowned for their cinematic trailers which attack your T.V. set around this time every year, featuring large scale explosions with well-known songs used to target the audience and entice them to buy the game.

For a few years now, some games have aimed to try to copy cinema and television. A prime example of recent times was the PS4 exclusive The Order: 1886 , which was heavily criticized by many critics across the board. A large complaint, in terms of performance, was its controversial 30 frames per second settings, which for many is substandard. To add some context, films for decades have been edited and shot in 24 fps which is what we have become accustomed to when watching visual media. The Order: 1886 developers Ready at Dawn claimed that they created their game in 30 fps to add to the feel of the game and to give it a “cinematic” style by sticking close to the 24fps used by films. Many suspect there was a double motive to this decision, claiming that the game was too demanding to run at a smooth 60 fps at 1080p on PS4, but conspiracies aside, the company claimed it made it cinematic. For those who are regular PC gamers, many of you should be used to the 1080p 60 fps experience it offers, and the great benefits at running at these higher specifications. Not only does a 60 fps look significantly smoother than standard 30 fps, it also feels more responsive and the general experience. 30 fps, console average, while lesser, is still bearable for many, but at sub-30 fps the experience dramatically decreases. This is irrelevant in movies, but for an interactive experience sub-30 is inexcusable. Its attempt to copy cinema only worked to The Order: 1886’s detriment, creating a lesser experience that resulted in horribly low scores.

On the flip side, there have been some games that take inspiration from cinema and produce high quality products. Telltale’s renowned best selling point and click story games, ranging from The Walking Dead to the Tales from the Borderlands games are high quality games that copy cinema in the best way. The games, while still needing to perform well, work in a series of point and click and quick time events so performance and a lesser frame rate is less important. Where these games shine are in the story and their writing. To my experience, it is hard to remember games that made me feel so much for its characters. The style of episodes takes an obvious nod from TV, and the writing is of a cinematic feel, so it’s copying of these mediums only works to the games advantage.

In conclusion, it’s safe to assume that video games that take heavy influence from cinema and TV always have the potential to become very good solid titles, with sterling scripts and screen play. However, they can always fall short if they take the wrong aspects from the big screen and attempt to translate them to a video game. It all depends on the styles that the games uses, whether it’s from a visual standpoint or otherwise.

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