Films have become less about the idea and more about the ROI. What do I mean? Well, the film industry has been courting the money and forgetting about the why of the art. After all, film is an art as well. Maybe that’s why it’s imploding, Mr. Spielberg. Haven’t you noticed that our films take less chances these days? I don’t know about you but I’ve stopped caring about who dons the red cape and with the reviews coming in on one of summer’s suppose-to-be blockbusters… there’s no doubt that we’ve hit a major plot point in the evolution of the narrative – another act, if you will, that perhaps will shift the paradigm into another industry: games.
Remember the feeling of powering up your SNES on Saturday morning? Remember cartridges? Come on now, it’s okay to be a bit nostalgic. 2D was so enjoyable (and still is, now it just has a different name – “retro”). There was something about putting an adventure into a mechanical slot that fought back like an Atomic Ant. You pre-millenials, will remember those days. We enjoyed it and that was because if you enjoyed gaming, you put up with it. Why? Because you knew when you finally got that machine working… that cartridge in the slot, after giving it a couple puffs of air underneath, that you were going on an adventure before your mother served you mac and cheese at noon.
Adventure attracts…and ironically it’s what’s missing in Hollywood. How many reboots and remakes can you handle these days? It seems like Hollywood is producing nothing but a rebranded cartridge every year (or couple of years) that keeps our lungs trying to fill themselves for a breath of fresh air. Those of you with high lung capacity might be a little more tolerant, but it’s pretty clear Hollywood’s freshness for adventurous storytelling has left us alienated. Do we really care about who is behind the red cape anymore? We need new heroes because we love to root for our heroes, whether they don a red cape or a fedora, a yoyo or a lightsaber. They take us on an adventure that ultimately transports us. And maybe that’s why the gaming industry is looking more like the Hollywood we want to see. Games and Hollywood have a common goal: escape.
After watching some of the keynote speeches at E3 this week, I felt that I was seeing more of Hollywood than could be revealed on a studio lot. Playstation announced titles that actually left you wondering if the future of the box office will actually come from the PS4’s cube-like box itself. ‘Watch Dogs’ (to be released later this year) focuses on the alternate reality in Chicago, Illinois where information warfare is king. Hacking isn’t just an action but a weapon… all done from your cell phone. The game’s concept can’t be more real given the recent news of whistle-blowing and scandal coming out of Washington itself. And this thriller is set to offer excitement and adventure in the same way 007 crossed over to the N64 with the original ‘Goldeneye’.
Watch Dogs’s concept parallels our reality and paranoia with our own government. There’s a sense of risk, adventure and the idea that it’s coming from our own cell phones is just brilliant because these suspicions are relatable in a technologically driven world. Yet, if this were pitched in Hollywood, it would most likely be compared to ‘Eagle Eye’ or ‘Minority Report’ almost instantaneously and be shot down for an indie filmmaker because it’s too similar to the mainstream. Already Ubisoft is set to make Watch Dogs into a film and it shows that once again, originality is coming from the game industry. And while it’s a fresh take on the technological aspect of our own societal connectivity, meanwhile studio execs greenlight a sequel, threequel, trilogy, etc… before even gauging an audience reaction and set the audience up for an attempt at a hacking of their wallets for the next decade.
When will Hollywood be forced to press reset? It might be sooner than we all think. Regardless, while the Hollywood machine serves up some 4-bit entertainment trying to jump portals to the next level, one thing is clear…there is no cheat code for good storytelling that will no doubt come from the game industry.