Originally written for 7Bit Arcade, the original has since been taken down, this one has been edited to make it read better and stuff. All details were correct at time of writing.
There’s no two ways about it, games are becoming more cinematic. Be it the engaging and witty dialogue of the Uncharted series to the Michael Bayhem of the COD franchise. Hell, Heavy Rain even made a stab at being an adult thriller. This generation has managed to produce narrative entertainment in ways that would have been nigh-on unimaginable on last generation’s consoles.
But there are two problems with this. Firstly, some games want to be considered as works of art so badly, they forget to tell a decent story and end up looking a bit try hard and dim in places, like the aforementioned Heavy Rain. Secondly, if games do eventually become the best way to craft a tale or universe, what will happen to all those hard-working film directors?
So what can be done to remedy this situation? Let’s get our favourite film directors making some of our favourite games.
Edgar Wright has crafted a hyperactive style of directing that will be instantly recognisable to the majority of film fans. Shaun of the Dead helped to usher in a new era of zombie love, while Hot Fuzz was Michael Bay’s The Wicker Man in the best sense possible. On top of that, Scott Pilgrim is practically a cult classic already. Wright’s movies may all share a rich vein of comedy, but his skill in crafting likeable heroes and scenes bursting with detail make him one of the best directors working today.
Games usually suffer from thinking that a reference equals funny. Just look at Lesuire Suit Larry or Matt Hazard and the extent of their painful reference anti-comedy. Edgar Wright on the other hand took gaming culture for Scott Pilgrim and delivered his usual hyper-witty spin on it. The level of detail in the jokes that characterised Scott Pilgrim is needed for a “comedy” game, but on top of that, Wright knows how to handle action. Just because you’re chuckling throughout, doesn’t mean his game would not be an absolute joy to play.
We need a director who is consistently funny – without resorting to the tired ol’ shtick of penis jokes and memes – while not sacrificing anything on the gameplay front and there would be nobody better for this than Edgar Wright.
We owe Sam Raimi a great deal. He gave us The Evil Dead trilogy, Bruce Campbell and two great Spider-Man films among other cinematic wonders. Raimi also paved the way for a generation of shoe-string film-making with The Evil Dead, which was made for the same price as a pot noodle and a few packets of Walkers (probably). While everyone will tell you how gut-ripping funny his films are, most people tend to forget just how scary they can be.
Which is why Raimi would be perfect to revitalise the ailing survival-horror genre. This new console generation has given us Dead Space so far to dig our teeth into and as good as that series undoubtedly is, levity is non-existent in it’s world. Die hard horror fans may baulk at the idea of bringing laughs to the genre, but Raimi understood the art of tipping a joke into horror, hitting the point where it goes from funny to terrifying. Want proof? Check out the original Evil Dead’s pencil-meets-ankle scene.
Raimi is also a very stylised director – with a very big nod to him in Shadows of the Damned – and this style is what has been lacking from the genre of late. The steadicam glide through the forest of the Evil Dead or the Point Of View of Doc. Ock’s tentacles in Spiderman 2 are just some of the visual flourishes that could point gaming horror in a new and exciting direction.
Whedon is to pop-culture fans what God is to Catholics. And for good reason to, the man has given the world Buffy, Angel, Firefly, The Avengers and Speed. He isn’t perfect – Buffy took a good while to hit its stride. Also, Alien: Resurrection – but at the peak of his powers, he has an ability to create a dense universe with characters that are witty yet relatable. He’s versatile as well, deftly switching between comics, TV and cinema.
Whedon properties – ok, Buffy – have been given the gaming treatment before, but they never came close to realising what a Whedon game could be. Imagine a sandbox environment where all the characters had the same depth as those of Serenity or Angel, a game that carried a strong and unique mythology which isn’t abandoned for conveniences sake and, naturally, lashings of martial arts.
It would also be nice to have a strong female character – who wasn’t designed as just eye candy for horny teens – take a starring role, something which Whedon has done in a lot of his work. Mass Effect has come close to this, but it lacks the sparky wit of the best Whedon work. What I’m saying is, just give us Firefly the game shaped as a Mass Effect tale and we’ll forget that the show was ever cancelled.
Jean Luc Godard
One of the masterminds behind the French new wave and the accidental creator of the myth that French people do nothing but sit around in bedrooms smoking and having sex. Oh and Tarantino adores him. Because his early films just drip rebel cool, from the dance sequence in A Band Apart to the frantic jump cuts of Breathless, he has become a mythical figure amongst film fans with his early films a stark statement against the bloated epics that French Cinema was known for at the time.
Jean Luc’s spirit has already been captured by some games. Any game that has broken the fourth wall – so, basically Metal Gear Solid then – owes the Frenchman a huge debt. But what we really want is a new wave, a rebellion against the noisy blockbusters that clog our shelves and a chic reinvention of the concept of games.
Explorations of themes instead of a restrictive narrative. A world that is real and filled with culture instead of a glorified playground where virtual hookers are the biggest talking point. An abandoning of traditional mission structure. And a digital Jean Paul Belmondo, because games have very few cool french characters. Is all that pretentious? Certainly, but if anyone could pull it off it would have been a young Jean Luc.
I really shouldn’t have to explain Clint to anyone, but if you’re really young or just got into this cinema malarkey, then here goes. He was in a few really good westerns, then he was in a few really good detective films, then he made a few really good films. His IMDB profile is a huge list of really good films. The man is a cinematic institution, grizzled and unflashy, but capable of gripping your attention like Dirty Harry grips his Magnum.
It’s this simple approach that gaming needs, especially it’s triple AAA blockbusters need. Many games pile set-pieces upon set-pieces and twists upon twists until everyone gives up on following the plot and grinds it out till the bitter end. Eastwood would probably cut through a lot of the useless exposition and needless narrative floundering to deliver a consistently engaging story.
Clint would be able to bring a punchier narrative to games. I can tell you the entire plot to Mystic River or Gran Torino, but ask me to explain the middle of Red Dead, a game I have 100% completed, and I would not be able to string more of a sentence together about Mexico on it. An Eastwood game may not be forty hour epic, but there would be no doubt that it would be an unforgettable experience.
As an entertainment form, games are barely into their teens and we’re only beginning to see what can be done with them. Gamers are now willing to put story ahead of actual gameplay in certain circumstances, but if this the direction our favourite hobby is going in, then it does need guidance. Fortunately, Guillermo Del Toro is already overseeing THQ’s INsane (edit: not anymore he’s not) and John Woo gave us Stranglehold.
However, we’re also looking forward to seeing where games go by themselves. The team at Valve have re-invented how gaming can tell stories with the Half-Life series and developers like Tim Schafer are continually pushing boundaries and giving us insanely cool experiences.
Let us know who you think would make a great game in the comments below.