Let Off Some Steam: I’ll Be Over Here… Playing Video Games

Let Off Some Steam: I’ll Be Over Here… Playing Video Games
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You might know RaygunBrown from his comments here on Kotaku, or from his frequently hilarious Twitter, but today he’s ‘letting off some steam’, by writing about movies and how video games have drained his enthusiasm down to a non-existent trickle!

Take it away Mr RayGun…

Movies Were Murdered By Video Games And I Gladly Disposed Of The Body
One afternoon in 1983, my father took me along to our local cinema. The yellow snack stand was filled to the brim with artery-clogging ‘food’ and the tickets were maybe only a couple of dollars. We stood in the lobby, choc-tops in hand, and he asked me to choose between the two films that were showing. Since I owned an Empire Strikes Back washcloth, it was only natural that I chose Return Of The Jedi. Which was good since the other movie was Superman III.

As far as I know, this is the earliest memory of going to see a movie that I have. There are others of course, an entire audience singing the Ray Parker Jr. song over the end credits of Ghostbusters, being blown away by the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day and feeling more than a little freaked out by the ‘spider-walk’ sequence in the special re-release of The Exorcist. But that afternoon of Return Of The Jedi stays with me. It was special. Alongside these memories has been my history with video games. I cried like a little girl when my Commodore 64 was scheduled to arrive a day later than promised, I skipped school to play Operation Wolf and devised an out-of-our-minds idea that two friends and I buy a Sega Megadrive together. How would ownership rights have been settled between three fourteen year-olds?

Both movies and games were of great importance to me growing up. But in recent years, perhaps due to video games becoming ever more sophisticated, I find that movies are lagging behind. In virtually all aspects of entertainment, movies no longer hold the same appeal as video games. A movie could be bursting at the seams with awards & acclaim, have lines around the block and people recommending it to me until they’re blue in the face but my reaction is typically one of apathy and slight derision. Whereas if you tell me that fourth-tier character Kenshi is coming to Mortal Kombat, then I’ll run around the house laughing maniacally like an early-nineties Nicolas Cage.

Thankfully, I don’t think I’m alone in this boat. Judging from how much money Call Of Duty sales generate every single minute, a ton of other folks seem to have a similar outlook to some extent. That said, the most surprising thing about it is how little it bothers me. Regardless of what you thought of the actual film, if you had told my teenage self that when a brand new Indiana Jones movie would be released and my reaction immediately was ‘Meh, I’ll get around it to seeing it I suppose’, my teenage self would have keeled over dead. Sure, I’m glad this paradox never happened but my level of concern in regards to missing out on the most apparently brilliant movies nowadays is slim to none.

Movies and video games grew up alongside me like two best friends. But since one is now leaving the other in the dust in terms of entertainment, should I be worried? About what exactly? I’m not about to pay upwards of fifteen dollars to leave my comfortable couch to travel to a shopping centre full of hipster punks and middle-aged weirdos who still don’t understand the concept of not displaying Gilbert Gottfried levels of annoyance just to experience the latest footage of a series of explosions and lens flares that has a plot attached to it. For the same amount of money, I can reward a small games developer by downloading their six-to-eight hour game and have my mind opened up a little more while doing it.

Is it simply because video games are interactive? Probably. Interrogating a suspect in LA Noire is a great deal more satisfying than simply observing an actor perform the same action while I stuff my mouth with popcorn. It becomes a much more positive and memorable experience. You can certainly argue that both movies and video games don’t have to be mutually exclusive but I’ve gradually realised that this is more often than not the case for me personally. I’ll shake my fist at not being able to afford that new release game for another two weeks but the last time I went to the movies was to see GI Joe: Rise Of The Cobra. And that was only because I was only dragged along by friends.

Perhaps it’s deeper than that. People who play video games are sometimes referred to by that awful label ‘gamer’. Yet nobody who goes to their cinema once a week is called a ‘movie-watcher’. That would be ridiculous because everybody goes to the movies. There’s no need for them to be labelled. Is it some kind of subconscious rebellion on my part then? An internal reaction to video games being looked down upon and unfairly blamed for violence by people who don’t play them? If so, my subconscious is pretty awesome.

Going to the movies used to be a magical experience. An event to look forward to and revel in. But video games have killed them dead. Is this a small tragedy? Maybe when I’m on my deathbed I’ll regret not seeing James Cameron’s Avatar on the big screen but for the moment, if your movie doesn’t have Batman in it then you won’t be seeing my money. I’ll be over here playing video games.


  • I’m pretty much the same man, videogame hype can sometimes turn me into a giddy, overexcited mess. And I bloody LOVE that feeling.

    The only movie that has me even close to that excited is Prometheus.

  • “If you had told my teenage self that when a brand new Indiana Jones movie would be released and my reaction immediately was ‘Meh, I’ll get around it to seeing it I suppose’, my teenage self would have keeled over dead.”

    Movies hold no appeal to you any more because George Lucas destroyed your childhood with the Star Wars prequels and then capped it off by ruining Indiana Jones as well, and now you’re too jaded and cynical to be excited about films again.

    Maybe we can form a club or something 🙁

  • I couldn’t agree with this more. I used to be movie mad, at least two a night on DVD and at least once a week for the cinema. The last movie i saw in a regular cycle of going was LOTR2… I’ve been since for sure, but only for things that i really cant wait to see.

  • i dont see it as games killing the feelings, more a case that most movies these days are just like most games..hyped to hell and just not worth seeing.

    THough i will say that I never saw avatar at the movies and still havent seen it on DVD even though i brought the damn thing when it came out on DVD because all i ever hear about is its special effects and CGI. Because i do nothing play video games 16hrs a day 7 days a week, that just doesnt intrest me

  • I agree with you completely about actually getting up and “going out” to the movies, but my local Blockbuster has an awesome Blu-ray collection and I’m just as obsessive about watching a great flick as I am about platinum trophies. Games are definitely longer, can be more involved, and have a greater satisfaction personally for achieving within them – but I love being taken away and getting invested in a fictitious story well told and presented. I love watching the first five minutes of a movie I’ve really, really been looking forward to and settling into my couch when I realise it’s not going to disappoint.
    I love my games, but I also love my movies. Just not going out to see them. And bollocks to 3d flicks, by the way, unless they’re made by Pixar.

  • A nice article.

    I still relate to a good movie, but it’s becoming increasingly hard to justify paying $15 (or $25 with 3D-ULTRA-MEGA-SCREEN) for two hours of non-interactive entertainment with, more often than not, a laughable plot and merely the allure of CGI to wake me up.

    Because I’m a fresh-cheeked, starry-eyed youngster, I can’t really relate to the age (oh so long ago!) when going to the movies was A Big Deal. But I can definitely appreciate that video games are becoming very competitive with movies in their visceral impact and emotional punch, to the point where I’d often rather play a good game narrative than watch a summer blockbuster.

  • I disagree entirely (except what Stu said about 3D movies). My experience of games and my experience of movies/TV are totally different.

    In my experience, games don’t allow me to become completely immersed, totally absorbed, as I can in movies. I still have to think and act, which makes me realise that I am playing a game. A movie/TV show is a complete experience and a well made one uses each of its elements to make you forget that you are sitting in a cinema/living room and think you are in the story.

    A game doesn’t do that but it offers a complementary experience. When Christian Bale beats the crap out of bad guys in Batman, its cool but not quite as cool as stringing together a 40 hit combo on Arkham Asylum. A good game offers satisfaction and a strategic challenge that ropes you in with the promise of ‘just a bit more’. They can be more lengthy than movies (a benefit TV shares) allowing for more plot exploration around the peripheral (like the loyalty quests in ME2).

  • I don’t agree but I understand your perspective. I’ll always be giddy over Predator, Terminator and Shawkshank Redemption. But I feel that is sentimenatilty than anything. Movies can still wow me like games. For all the Inceptions and Dark Knights (Nolan fan) there are Portal 2’s and Team Fortress 2’s (Valve fan).

    The satisfaction and value lasts longer with gaming but the immediate feelings are all the same.

  • Great article man you have quite a knack for writing. I feel a similar sensation when watching tv or reading a book instead of movie watching. I can get to know a character over several hours instead of hearing about his personality for like 4 seconds.

  • I’m sort of split evenly between the two.

    For me it depends on the movie, and it depends on the game but I find myself experiencing that giddy feeling of excitement when something I have been following the development of for months (or sometimes years) finally gets a release.

    I feel a kind of awe when I handled my Blu Ray version of Blade Runner Final Cut. Such a beautiful movie, what an intense and beautifully realised world, there is nothing like it in any other movie or game I haven’t seen anything that comes close to that level of realisation.

    How about the beauty and tension of the 1979 Alien by Ridley Scott? How many movies and games blow their whole load in the first 15% of play time? Alien worked because you hardly ever saw it. It would probably make for a dull game, but my god what a film. Do I hear a round of applause for the impending Star wars Saga arrival on Blu Ray?

    And therein lies the dichotomy. Movies tell a story in a fixed format with a predetermined outcome that requires no input from the audience. The worst games have sequences connected by brief moments of interactivity, and the very best suck you into the world and make you part of the story. The mechanisms are different and the expectations are different.

    Formulaic movies and games do not excite or interest me, but visually stunning marvels of epic story telling or well executed tension builders are well worth it in both genre’s. How could you tell the story of ‘The Social Network’ in an entertaining game? The reality is you couldn’t but as a movie it is a highly intelligent exploration of the issues surrounding the birth of an icon of the modern era.

    I must also agree with PuppyLicks, bring forth Prometheus, The Hobbit , The Dark Knight Rises, Avatar II, not to mention Guild Wars 2,Star Wars the Old Republic, Crysis 3 et al… It’s like a kid in a candy store…

    This is a great time to enjoy both mediums and I for one will continue to enjoy the best of what each has to offer.

  • It doesn’t help that most movies suck these days (or maybe this is a side effect of me getting older), relying so much on CGI that you’re practically watching a cartoon.

    The big screen and surround sound isn’t something that’s exclusive to cinemas anymore either. Large flatscreen TVs and home theatres have put an end to that.

    Of course the TV doesn’t quite compare to a cinema screen, but when it comes down to a choice of paying $20+snacks to go to the cinemas with uncomfortable chairs, mobile phones going off and babies crying, or waiting a couple of months to buy the blu ray for $30 and watching it in the comfort of your own home (with all the extras and the ability to rewatch) the cinema doesn’t have the allure it used to.

  • Well back when we were kids the movies were awesome and often. for the past 15 years or so though movies have been on a steady downward spiral in regards to quality, and *if* there *is* a good movie it’s only about 1 or 2 a year. There were a few years in the 80s there that produced 10-12 classics all within the span of 12 months 😛

  • You are right, and it’s not our fault, Hollywood is to blame, from 10-5 years the silver screen has been plagued with quick cash-in that rely on the same story told 20 years ago, a cheap part number on the title or a franchice that people are fond of, few are the movies that dare to try something new or at least tell a story that is challenging to the mind.

    Still I go to the movies… because I don’t know when that little gem is going to pop out.

  • Genius article! I love the introspective musings on why everyone else’s view of videogames may have affected his subconcsious’ view of cinema, before summizing “…my subconscious is pretty awesome.”

  • I haven’t had my love for movies move far away from gaming too much at all. I still get hyped or remarked unhyped as it were over certain properties and I have no issue shelling out cash for either.

    I do like you touching on opportunity cost of movies/gaming though where cost of movies can be the equivelant of a indie title or arcade title or a discounted AAA game.

    It always irks me when I have someone complain about the cost of DLC, arcade titles or costs of gaming in general when that same person is wearing a tshirt with some ‘cool’ reference on it that cost them many times over what said DLC cost. When you can pay the same amount for some wanky coffee that a piece of DLC costs that is ‘too expensive’ I think one needs to get some perspective on the value of money.

  • I have to agree, It’s been years… really, YEARS since I last went to the cinema. Even if I hear about a movie being great I can’t build up the enthusiasm. I have Foxtel, so I’ll see it eventually, at my leisure, in my living room. People are raving about The Social Network and I haven’t seen it. I’ve held the Blu-ray disc in my hands at Blockbuster (apparently we still have those here!) and put it back down, deciding I didn’t feel like paying $7 to take it home and watch it tonight when maybe that’s not even what I felt like doing (this is why I love my iQ – anything remotely interesting gets recorded for later, 75% of everything I record gets deleted without viewing it).

    Even TV shows I love I will sometimes see as a waste of time. I find myself less and less motivated to sit and watch Chuck for an hour each week (something I have to do late at night or early on weekends while my wife is asleep because it bores the heck out of her) when instead I could be gaming (something my wife is more than willing to observe while she’s awake, because watching me play ANY game is more interesting to her than an episode of Chuck or The Big Bang Theory).

    So to clarify – I can game anytime I want, my TV/movie viewing time is limited – but I would still rather game. Maybe it’s because TV shows and movies are pre-determined, on a set course? Even though games in a similar way will relentlessly guide you to one ending or another which have been predetermined by the designers, getting there is contingent on your own success or failure or in more recent games the choices you make.

  • Great read. Im feeling more & more the same each day.
    Once apon a time I’d be buying new dvds each payday guarenteed & going to the cinema to see the latest blockbuster.
    But then the quality of films began to decline & more sequels/remakes started to appear & killed my interest a fair bit (And dont get me started on the plague of awful comic book movies as of late!)
    I began buying up boxsets of my favourite shows on dvd as they held my interest more than movies were, maybe due to the quick fix factor lol
    I still enjoy a great movie when it comes around though, Black Swan & Incidous have knocked my socks off this year so maybe its my taste thats changing?
    Oh and while we’re at it, what the f**k is going on with music these days?!

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