Tuesday I'll be moderating a panel
OMMA Global titled "Play Me A Story: Can Games Help Content Producers Tell Stories?" I've been thinking over the topic a bit during this week leading up to the conference.
I'm also not the only one pondering this question. In addition to my panelists, a number of people have been thinking about the nature of storytelling as it pertains to video versus games.
George Miller, the director of the movie "Mad Max," recently suggested
games might be a better medium for telling a story than film. Movie critic Roger Ebert has claimed are not art
. Rather than arguing any particular point, I'm in more of a
"questions" mood (that's the role of the moderator, after all).
I guess the initial question is, what's the difference? Where is the line drawn between film and a
video game? For anyone who played the "Metal Gear Solid" games, some cut scenes bordered on the length of a feature film. Are animated clips generated from a video game (i.e.
machinima), somehow inherently different from an animated feature that was rendered by computers at Pixar? Is the difference one of interaction, and how that relates to the role of the
auteur? So when DVDs or Blu-Ray offer "multiple angle selection," is that no longer film, but a game? And what about the pivotal scene in "BioShock," where a player is
forced to behave contrary to one's will. When there is no illusion of choice at all, doesn't that make the presence of the "auteur" more powerful? Video game design hinges on
controlling the experience while providing interaction.
Which leads to the next question: Where are things going? Why is a movie length somewhere between an hour and a half to
two-and-a-half hours? Well, if it were less than an hour and a half, it'd hardly be worth $10, and if it were three hours, in addition to starring Kevin Costner, no one would want to sit
through it in one go. But what happens if people stop going to movie theaters? Why keep the same time constraints? While the video industry (film/tv/online video) laments an ADHD
audience, video games capture that same audience for sittings of two hours at a time, in some cases several times a week. Does online video need to run for less than five minutes to be
watched? Or maybe it needs to break the frameworks of celluloid to offer some interaction and participation?
What can traditional content learn from video games? As media
converges and frameworks dissolve, this will become an increasingly important issue. The intense growth of the game industry over the past few years indicates it is doing something right.
If you're at OMMA on Tuesday, I encourage you to stop by for the panel, and certainly say hello afterwards. And if you can't make it, feel free to ask a question in the comments --
I'll try to include your thoughts for the panel