Videogames vs. Movies: Have games replaced films as the modern popular narrative medium?


Image Credit: Melissa Moseley

Comparing one narrative medium to another is a tricky business. Read the full post.

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  • Kyle

    I’m a fan of both movies and games, but I can’t say I favor one over the other. They are two different mediums. That being said, I don’t believe video games are going to pass movies in terms of popularity anytime soon. Movies remain far more accessible to a wider audience. Video games have made leaps and bounds though in reaching the masses in recent years, as the success of the wii shows, but they still have a distance to catch up to movies. Though one should not be quick to discount games as a good medium for story telling. Simply look for game series like Mass Effect, Uncharted, and Assassin’s Creed for good stories

  • GC

    In response to “ADAM B. VARY”: Over the past 30 years there is a movie or two every 10 year’s that really stands out. Many movies try to cash in on this new line of apparent success. There is no real difference in the contemporary movie business now and the contemporary movies business let’s say 30 year’s ago.

  • Ken from Chicago

    This is truly a silly argument. First, movies are limited by one huge factor–time. TRY and name the last 3 movies that lasted 4 or more hours.

    Video games can be a movielike as TPTB behind put in the effort. But more video games can tell a far more compelling, immersive and complex story than movies, or even some trilogies can. The closest thing are movie series, ala Harry Potter, James Bond or if the Chronicles of Narnia or the Percy Jackson series can hold up

    And even so, those would be a decade-long in the making of what 20-hours of content, when there are plenty of video games that do that much in a single title. And we haven’t even mention DLC’s which allow you to expand the stories further in a much faster rate than most movie sequels. Then there are game mods, content created by gamers themselves. Counterstrike started out as a gamer-modification of Half Life. Medal of Honor was modified completely into a Star Wars: Galactic Conquest.

    And the elephant in the room no one had discussed are MMOs. Those allow for legions of players to SHARE in gaming in total defiance of the stereotype of nonsocial gamers all alone. But more to the point, MMOs can and do have ginormous ever-evolving stories:
    –Guild Wars, which started out with an epic tragic tale of loss, and even more loss, and a tale of humanity fleeing against invading monsters until finally standing their ground, only to be betrayed and retreat and regroup again, and even then there are various twists and turns along the way. Not to mention the upcoming sequel, Guild Wars 2, set 250 years later and the awakening of the 5 Elder Dragons, which has more story content, personal stories for the player, and dynamic story events where a player’s actions have lasting consequences on the greater world around them.
    –Star Trek Online, only a year and a half old, has continued the stories of the Trekverse beyond Voyager and the movies and is telling a vast tale of not just interstellar or intergalactic war but of conflict that crosses time and universes themselves. The recent Foundry addition, much like CoH’s Mission Architect, has allowed gamers to add their own stories and adventurers into the mix.
    –City of Heroes, the first superhero massively-multiplayer online role-playing game, has had a series of disconnected story arcs, but since last year’s Going Rogue expansion, it has added an overarch from a mirror universe and of invasion, and which require you the player to make moral choices about whether to serve Law and Order vs Good and Justice. Of course it is the MMO to first introduce the Mission Architect and revive the 1990s gamer-mod movement by allowing gamers to add their own missions and stories into a MMO for all to enjoy.
    –Star Wars: The Old Republic, sure it may prove to be World of Warcraft in jedi robes, but considering it’s from Bioware, the makers of the original Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, it’s starting out focusing on an immense story. Of course, speaking of WoW …
    –World of Warcraft, this is 10-million subscriber online gorilla in the room, but shrinking due to the rise of the free-2-play game spearheaded by Dungeons & Dragons Online, still, in the mmo space, it can’t be ignored and its recent series of expansion and story developments that have literally overhaul the world of the game itself. Speaking of free2play …
    –Lord of the Rings Online, which is an mmo video game that is inherently very story-centric and has ever so slowly expanding on the world of Middle-Earth (tho many argue with some of the changes being noncanonical and designed merely for gameplay).

    Like I said, it’s a silly argument. All the resources and trends favor video games, as the technology allows for ever increasing story-telling, ease of gameplay (switching joysticks, keyboards and mice to more naturalistic intuitive Nintendo Wii’s wii-motes, Microsoft Kinects that simply scan your gestures or Guitar Hero / Rock Band you-be-the-musician with musical-esque instruments or Dance Dance Revolution), and, if you choose, photorealism, it allows video games to extend their lead over movies as forms of entertainment and art.

    — Ken from Chicago

    P.S. Sorry, Ebert, but you’re wrong on that score–but mainly because you’ve been seriously deprived of the best of video games.

  • Jonas

    The fact that this article and the discussion thread basically relegates film to Hollywood, and the mainstream conception of a film, negates the entire conversation.

    A video game cannot replicate something like Red Desert or Cafe Lumiere or Sauve qui peut (la vie). It’s impossible, and nor can books and television do this.

    Books & Television – Television is better suited to book-like narrative but that doesn’t make it better than cinema. The folly here is the idea that cinema is supposed to follow the literary line – narrative. It can but it doesn’t have to (and many of the greatest novels of the last 100 years ditch narrative or basically only use it as a skeleton for abstraction.) Cinema is first and foremost the replication and juxtaposition of images.

    Video games say nothing about human life; the way we live in the changing world. If your idea of a movie is Star Wars than video games are perfectly capable of replacing it but Star Wars isn’t remotely representative of all cinema. On that token, video games can also replace television…and by that logic even books…but it won’t. Video game characterization and consciousness is superficial and it will remain that way.

  • Adam

    really its true what they say about video games they really inproved in the last 30 years or so

  • Rob Grizzly

    I aappreciate Adam’s argument. its an uphill battle, and he really has no legs to stand on, but he tries. Games are better than they have ever been. But they will never BE movies, no matter how close they come. Case in point: players dream of the day when their favorite games get turned INTO movies. Because that is the ultimate art form. People excite for the film adaptation (book, play, game, etc) not the other way around. No one wants to play The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: the Game.

  • Jonn D

    seriously, anyone that argues this point and thinks movies/tv is something that is better. take the challenge: read an entire metal gear solid script and tell me otherwise, then think about the task u have to do in between each segment. people dont have time for movies now a days. people have time to put on a game for 5 minutes and go back to work. there is nothing compairing each, if your not open-minded then you wont see a cinimatic value of something like that. probably wont even see how people are putting kids to the test and making interactive tutors for guitars with the new rocksmith game. kids learn off of these things and sometimes its not the best but you run into alot more situations in smaller dossages in real life then you would with a movie unless if you are a drama movie goer. back to the point… movies, games, tv its just a script its just what it means to you!

  • tresorparis

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  • Austin Rogers

    In terms of creativity, they can both be better then the other you could play something as fun and creative as little big planet, or play something done a million times like call of duty, or medal of honor, while all fun creativity is still keen and makes a game much more interesting. The same things go for movies, take Pan’s Labyrinth, that was one of the most creative movies i have ever seen, on the other hand i recently saw paranormal activity 3, which like call of duty and medal of honor, has been told a million times before and will be told a million times again. Games will never reign supreme if they do not get as accessible as movies and music. Company’s like gaikai and onlive are currently making this possible. Although i enjoy gaming more then watching movies, i do not think that either will ever be better then the other, some will like movies better, some will like video games better. It’s like mac and pc, i like pc better, some like mac better. Neither will go extinct due to fanboys on both sides of the story.

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  • to make a videogame

    Write out your game’s plot. Now, regardless of what genre you choose, you will need to create a plot for your video game. Again, role-playing games tend to have more complicated plots, but even action games should have some type of storyline. Anyway, to create a video game plot, start by closing your eyes and visualizing the actions of your characters. Try to see the whole “movie” before you write anything down. Once you get to the end, jot down what your mind’s eye saw. After that, express the visual side of your ideas through a storyboard. This is achieved by drawing out the action, describing it and including captions of what the characters say. And don’t worry if you can’t draw. If you get a program such as Storyboard Quick, you can plan your scenes with pre-made drawings, or you could use rudimentary sketches. When your storyboarding is complete, transfer your ideas onto a script. This will make things more organized for both you and any voice-over actors you may have.

  • Ben Ben

    I think that for the moment, movies have the upper hand in story telling. But I don’t think it will stay this way. Now I’m pretty young, but while my friends were playing Modern Warfare 2, I was playing Mario Brothers. So When I turned thirteen and started playing fps behind my parents’ backs, I wanted to do it right. I started with Black Mesa (2012), which was amazing. So then I played Half-Life (1998), then the rest of the HL series. Then I got into Counter-Strike, Bioshock, then every Elder Scrolls game, all of the Fallouts, and now Crysis. And out of all of those critically acclaimed games, I’ve got to say that none could tell a story quite like a good movie can.

  • Leon S Kennedy

    Movies & TV (also music) are all a LOT older than video games. The video games industry is a baby compared to these other mediums, and it has already surpassed both film AND music in terms of revenue earned. And books aren’t even worth mentioning because 90% or people would rather play a fun game then sit in the corner & read. Everyone on the planet doesn’t need to play games for it to pull in the most revenue.That’s a plus for games because they already earn so much without that huge demographic. Imagine how much $ games will earn when they DO touch that “Uncharted (pun intended)” demographic.

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