Does Hollywood Provide More Variety Than Videogames?

Tameem Antoniades, Chief Creative Officer at Ninja Theory certainly thinks so. In an extensive five page interview at Gamasutra, he discusses the issues the led to Enslaved's struggle at retail, and problems with video game storytelling amongst other things. But one topic that keeps re-occurring is gaming's tendency to support conservative, tried and tested gaming experiences.

"I think we're always battling against what's current," he claimed. "Publishers make the decisions; everyone's too frightened to put their foot forward and say, "This is what we should do", because if you get it wrong, you're fired. So publishers are inherently conservative, and the way that they can arrive at what kind of game they should do is through consensus and focus testing.

"If you put a bunch of kids in a room and ask them, "What kind of game do you want to make?", "What kind of hero do you want to be?", they're going to say "I want to be a space alien" because they just played Gears of War, or "I want to be a gangster" because they've played Grand Theft Auto, or "I want to be a cowboy" because they've played Red Dead Redemption.

"So if you took them something like The King's Speech and said "How about a film where you want to be a speech therapist and you're helping a quaint king in old London?", they'll say "No, I don't want to watch that!" Yet somehow in the movie industry they allow it; there's a system that allows kind of these projects to go forward, whereas in games we don't allow them to go forward."

It's an interesting point. Independent games tend to provide gamers with a broader variety of gaming experiences - and some have sold extremely well — yet major publishers appear reluctant to invest in fresh ideas.

Most likely the increased gestation period of video games is something to do with it. It takes two to three years to develop a full-scale, AAA video game, and the livelihood of hundreds of people is often at risk. In game development the risks are higher in a lot ways, which may account for the fact that the games industry is inherently more conservative.

Thoughts?

Watch As It All Evolves: Tameem Antoniades Speaks [Gamasutra]


Comments

    they provide more colors than brown :D

    There's a big difference between movies and games that seems to have been missed here; one medium is interactive, one is not.

    It's easy to tell a story about anything like The King's Speech but making something like that and then having it be interactive? Completely different ballgame.

      Have to agree - it doesn't mean they shouldn't try, but it's a lot harder to make a game about speech therapy fun than a game about... I dunno... pew pew and explosions.

      Also that example was talking about kids. The Kings Speach is in no way aimed at kids, so of course it won't interest them.

      Take them to a movie about cowboys or gangstas and then chances are they'll want to be one as much as they would want to be one after playing a game.

    David Cage from Quantic Dream has expressed similar sentiments too. I truly think that games EVENTUALLY will be able to rival any thing film does, but for now they've got a point.

    “So if you took them something like The King’s Speech and said “How about a film where you want to be a speech therapist and you’re helping a quaint king in old London?”, they’ll say “No, I don’t want to watch that!” Yet somehow in the movie industry they allow it; there’s a system that allows kind of these projects to go forward, whereas in games we don’t allow them to go forward.”

    That's because they're different media - what works in one doesn't necessarily work in the other. Yeah, a game based on The King's Speech would most likely blow a large number of goats, even though it makes for a good film. But on the other hand, a movie based on something like Child of Eden or Braid or Flower would also most likely suck, even though they were great games.

    We're also looking at historical data where there was no real viable indie market. Games are much broader than they used to be because it doesn't cost the audience $90 to buy every game.

    Films studios are just as conservative as game studios, but being around for longer means that they've got a larger variety of things that have proven to work in the past to stick to.

    Progress comes in dribs and drabs and for every Black Swan or King's Speech (neither of which are products of the major US studios) you will see hundreds of Michael Bay-esque or dumb RomComs that are "safe" movies which make a ridiculous amount of money at the box office.

    There will also be a large amount of failures that are outside of the standard mold.

    Same goes for games, for every Demons' Souls and Minecraft that does something a little different, we see plenty of Call of Duty or Gears of War type games with a modest amount of failed experiments, easily forgotten.

    And the difference is? The majority of big ticket movies are also cookie cut.

    Truly innovative cinema is also indie, like in games. It also doesn't get the big distribution or promotion.

    Every now and then an non-mainstream film makes it into the public awareness such as your choice of Black Swan, just like some indie games also gain notoriety.

    I don't see the difference

    No I completely agree, it's been a huge part of why I play less and less games. I know what people are saying about them being different mediums and all, but it doesn't change the fact that there is more storytelling conservatism going on in games. It doesn't meant there has to be a game about speech therapy, it just means that, gameplay aside, it's unfortunate we don't get more unique and diverse writing in games. Very, very interesting article!

      Story telling in games is pretty abysmal and we will praise something that is barely worthy of being a B-movie as being extraordinary because our expectations are so low.

      My problem here is that this article is looking in entirely the wrong direction. The gaming industry works similarly to Hollywood, where big safe productions will generate profits and some of that will go towards smaller, more ambitious ones.

      I'd much prefer to see gaming approach story telling more in the way that HBO and AMC have been with their shows. Find the talent and have faith in their ability. It may not appeal to the masses but it will be loved by those that it does appeal to.

        Yeah fair point. I suppose the term 'Hollywood' isnt right, they are very much how you describe them. I could go on to say how the film industry is more than just Hollywood, but then so is the games industry more than just AAA titles soooo... I'll just shut up now :/

          We're talking about major studios. I think the comparison is appropriate but obviously it's going to miss a fair bit :p

          I also like how Red Dead Redemption is mentioned here, when that's Rockstar's equivalent of Inception. A pet project made because they'd earned enough faith from the studio after their more mainstream success.

          Really, the argument should be to move the larger studios away from the Hollywood business model. That's what is causing it to be so conservative. Unfortunately, it's a pretty solid and proven business model, so the odds of that happening are rather slim :p

          For the record, I consider Valve to be like HBO, they invest in the talent and have faith. So they end up with a great product.

            Yeah thats true too, especially about it being a model that works. I mean, why would they change and risk losing money. Ah well, on the back of those examples we can only hope that we get more RDR's and Valve's in the mix down the line.

    Apply the Time to crate index to most movies and they fail.

    Coincidence? more at 11

    Have people make a game before going to the publisher, so they can sell it based on its intrinsic value instead of having market demographic sales targets drive the design.

    My personal opinion is the exact opposite of this. I think games have been doing far better than many of the films I've seen recently. The King's Speech and The Black Swan are exceptions to the film norm, both excellent and unique films, but there are many games that also present those qualities. LIMBO, El Shaddai, De Blob 2, Bastion, Vanquish, etc. are games that I've played recently that provided both high-quality and unique experiences, in one way or another, not to mention the Team ICO games that were just re-released. Gaming's got a long way to go, but I think we're definitely beating modern cinema in terms of ingenuity and creativity. Even on a big AAA budget explosion-fest level, I'd rather play, say, Gears of War 3 than watch Transformers 3 again.

      'I think we’re definitely beating modern cinema in terms of ingenuity and creativity' - in terms of storytelling this is in no way true. I would say if that's how you feel then you're not watching enough cinema.

    “So if you took them something like Enslaved and said “How about a film game made by Ninja Theory?”, they’ll say “No, I don’t want to watch that!” Yet somehow in the Gaming industry someone allowed it.

    It's a fine arguement, there isn't enough variety in gaming but Ninja Theory sure do make awful games.

      Yeah, what bothers me about both this guy and David Cage is that though they included compelling narratives, everything else is mediocre. Cage got away with it, Ninja theory didn't. I think there is plenty of room for compelling narrative, but it has to have gameplay to match i.e. Red Dead Redemption.

    There may also be a difference in the way films and games make money. Games do not have the equivalent of a theater. Going to the movies is an activity, and even bad movies are going to make a little at box office. Disc sales are either to help make up for poor box office, or just gravy. Games on the other hand...it's like if every movie were direct to DVD.

      Thats not necessarily true. If a film falls tens of millions below its budget in box office sales, DVD sales arent going to make that up. It's often just as risky.

    It's just a stupid idea. They are so damn different it's ridiculous, it's like complaining that you can't make a game about the biology of butterflies, yet books seem to be able to get away with it.
    Ninja Theory's problem is a sub-par history of game production. It didn't sell well because it didn't play well.

      Why should they be so different? You cant make a comparison between film and a biology book because the point here is storytelling. There is plenty of comparisons between storytelling in books and film, so why not games and film?

    Red Dead Redemption was a fairly original game.
    I think stories in games tend to be held higher (by the people who play them) because they're interactive. When you really think about it, most 'normal' people's lives tend not to compare well to characters in critically acclaimed movies. I mean how many people can say they had the same life as the King in King's Speech? Or how many people can say they led a similar life to Forrest Gump?

    Is part of it that a movie only goes for 1.5-3 hours... where as a game can go well past that?
    A customer is prepared to see a crap film, they're not prepared to invest a full weekend or more on a crap game.

    Apples/Oranges.

    "Hollywood" is not "Cinema as a whole."

    "Video Games," if by that you mean mainstream AAA console blockbusters (The FIFAs, Call of Dutys, Gears of Wars, Halos, etc etc), isn't the same thing as "Video Games as a whole."

    Mainstream AAA video games provide similar variety to Hollywood blockbuster films. i.e. not that much.

    Less AAA-oriented games produced by the mainstream tend to allow more variety and complexity, just as Hollywood (or "Mainstream Cinema") has more variety and the like outside of the summer blockbuster category. However, in both cases, you typically have smaller budgets and smaller audiences. This isn't a bad thing, simply a statement of fact. Blockbusters are designed to target a broad demographic in order to recoup those larger production costs. Lower production costs mean more willingness to cater towards niche markets.

    And, amongst non-mainstream cinema and non-mainstream games, you have a similar level of latitude for creative indulgences, simply because there's less financial risk involved.

    I think the arguement that they are too different to compare is weak at best. Take a game like..say Painkiller. The objective being to kill a lot of guys, with very little focus on story. Compare this with any slasher film you care to name. Minimal story, it's for people who like to see peoples entrails on the outside.

    In contrast, look at a story heavy game like Final Fantasy, without going into the validity of it, some still claim that the death of Aeris as one of the most significant and moving pieces of game ever. I for one firmly believe that The Darkness is one of the greatest tales of revenge I've ever encountered, sitting on the couch with Jenny watching tv while she falls asleep is hands down the greatest romantic scene ever in a video game. What follows in the orphanage, while you are restrained by the darkness is incredible, it's moving, and serves as a solid foundation for a story of bloody revenge. While it may be argued that because The Darkness is based on a comic, the above example doesn't count. It absolutely counts, as it proves that ideas can be transferred from a non interactive medium, to an interactive one. The Darkness, for me was more powerful story-wise than a great number of films that I have seen.

    The correlations between mindless violence, both in games and film, and well made, dramatic storylines, again covering both mediums, in my mind debunks the premise that film and game are too different to be compared. Possibly, the problem that the video game industry is having in relation to storylines is that they are having trouble actually conveying these ideas through appropriate engagement of the player.

    So... They should take a risk and remake games? Like they re-made Perfect Blue, with less subtlety and grace?

    It's a fair point that games should follow other avenues, but that's a bad example.

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