Wednesday, 7 April 2010

make games that aren't shit please

Technology has run away with games.

Games and films are compared all the time.

The big difference is film has a heritage that games don’t.

The first film, Strongman Sandow, or whatever it was, which came out in 1890: that’s pong, or space invaders, or whatever.

The silent films translate into Doom, or Super Mario Bros. The graphics are awful, though at, presumably, the peak of what was possible, but there’s a retro charm there.

Even then the stories in silent films are better than their game counterparts. Although admittedly this system of comparison is something I have subjectively made up. And it took me about five seconds to do it.

It has taken films years, literally one hundred and twenty of them, to get from that basic Space Invaders shit, Strongman Sandow, The Great Train Robbery, to where they are now.

This is a debatable point, but technologically speaking games have reached the same point as films in around a fifth of the time.

There hasn’t really been a game like Napoleon, a film by Abel Gance from 1927. He would tie a camera to a pole and film from the side of a running horse. No one had done shit like that in films, and no one has done shit like that in games.

You have games like Portal which mess around with physics systems in games, or Shadow of the Colossus, which mess with the boss fight/minion structure, but these examples are few and far between.

There are too many games like Dante’s Inferno, which are just big visual spectaculars, doing nothing inventive or refreshing for games.

The films we love and the guys who make them; Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, they loved film and they studied it and drew in all kinds of inspirations from the history of film, art, and storytelling in general to make great films. Films which are regarded as classic, timeless works of art which have touched at least two generations of people.

Games don’t have this, because the people who make them think going from 2D to 3D is a beautiful achievement. Would The Incredibles really be a worse film if it was a 2D cartoon?

People who make games think games have developed because of health regen and cover systems, because of open world games and bosses that fill the screen.

These things can be great, but a shit film is still shit even if it has a great actor in it.

It’s not even that games designers need to look at old films. They need to be looking at everything; the films of Tarkovsky, documentaries about Spanish explorers, books about medieval torture, the paintings of Mark Rothko, sunny days.

Then they need to make games which can stand up next to that shit. Or else everyone will keep making shit games that steal from other shit games.

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