I hate to say this, but I’m a massive fan of Silent Hill, the games and the film, and I’ve played all the games but I watched the film first. Sacrilege, I know, but that’s the point of films of games and books of games and films of books: to get you interested in the whole mythos by giving you a feel of what the series is about. I liked the film so much I had to play all the games because I was so interested in the world of Silent Hill – being such a big Lovecraft fan the similarities were too much for me to ignore. You see, because I like the Resident Evil games, I ‘have’ to go see the films; even though I know they will be terrible, I just have to know. I’ve made an investment in time, money and in some cases emotion to the series and I have to know how mind-rapingly awful the films are as a result of that.
Games today map real actors so as to have actual acting in their videogames – I remember playing L.A Noire and recognizing people from TV shows and movies I’d watched and it was amazing seeing them and playing them and fighting them. This isn’t new though, Command and Conquer has been hiring real actors for years to star in their live action cut scenes in order to add realism and drama to the action.
Now for the elephant in the room: movie tie-in games and movies of games usually suck, with a few exceptions, like the Mario Brothers movie… (what!?). I know they’re terrible, but it highlights the fatal flaw games have, which is that they rely on gameplay more than they do story or characters. Which is why when they make the leap to the silver screen they fall short, and the same is true the opposite way around: films that become games are usually ill-conceived and have terrible gameplay and a tacked on storyline that has no relevance (one exception was Spiderman 2, the best Spiderman game, in my opinion).
Movie tie-in games only work when they create a different experience that branches off from the same scenario. So in terms of Spiderman 2, yes it follows the same story arc as the film, so you fight Doc Ock and do most of the things that happen in the film; but there were also loads of side missions and other villains to fight, as well as the whole of New York City to explore. In my humble opinion, it wasn’t a game as much as it was a Spiderman simulator, as in I think that game is the closest you are going to get to knowing what it feels like to be Spiderman.
Are games incompatible with stories, or do they reinvent them? Games tell stories, but the stories are counterfeit because they aren’t as important as the world or the game play, or just the ‘raw feel.’ You could make Casablanca: The Game, but that doesn’t mean anyone will want to play it. Videogames are not inferior films but something structurally different altogether. Story should be the most important part because that’s what drives us on: story and meaning gives purpose to the lives of the characters.
In the cinema, the world is projected at you; in a video game, you are projected into the world (Poole 2000). A film rolls over your eyes, it can leave you behind, you can fall asleep and it can carry on boring you, but a game needs your input, and that’s why it’s more engaging. It’s like watching Die Hard and then Bruce Willis asks you for help in killing some trashy Euro-crooks…who knows, maybe that’ll happen one day. Look at the way games and films both do 3D; you take 3D glasses into a film, so who’s to say one day you won’t take a light-gun or, science help us, a wiimote into the cinema and help the allies fight Mecha-Hitler?
I think it was Final Destination 3 that allowed you to decide who died in the film, which would in turn alter the endings -this is interesting because a lot of DVDs do come with alternate endings to films, and in some cases I’ve thought they were better, so why shouldn’t I be allowed to choose that ending? I’m not rewriting the film, I’m just choosing the way I think it should end. Film is afraid of games in that way: it parodies them or uses them to show that people are antisocial or dangerous because videogames are naturally more flexible and malleable than films, and movies can’t really compete with that.