Video Games and Movies are Getting Engaged!

I originally thought that I wanted to target the evolution of video game consoles for my term project.  But upon deeper consideration, I realized that the topic didn’t inspire me as much as how people interact with the content on those devices.  Instead, I think that this project could serve help me reconcile my mid-career shift from filmmaking to the video game industry.  I believe that the two are on a collision course to form a new medium and I am interested in exploring that possibility.

Thesis: The video game industry has evolved from a casual distraction to deeply engaging, character-driven interactive narratives, while Hollywood has become reliant on similar technology and game tie-ins to drive their business.  The two media will continue to converge until they become indistinguishable.

Statement of Intent – I plan to explore the evolution and growth of the video game industry that I believe can be broken down into the following time periods:

1. Past (1970s – 1990s) – in the late 1970s and early 1980s, games like Pong and Asteroids didn’t have stories, they had actions that users could execute.  These games essentially existed in a vacuum.  Context for bouncing a virtual ball or shooting asteroids was not as significant as controlling the on-screen images.

Through the 1980s and into the 1990s, games took on more cinematic qualities.  Cut-scenes (which later became known as cinematics), in games like Donkey Kong were introduced to give back stories that allowed designers to move the action from one location to another.  These brief, simple animatics gave longer-running games rudimentary stories, if not a bit more cohesiveness than their predecessors.

At the same time, some filmmakers attempted to make their products more interactive through experiments that allowed audiences to choose how the narrative would play out by depressing buttons to cast their votes.

2. Present (2000s) – The proliferation of PC and console gaming give developers more powerful platforms to build immersive worlds with rich characters, render extremely life-like visuals, and use top voice talent from Hollywood.  These changes began to blur the lines between the two media.  A study conducted by Bride Mallon and Brian Webb at Queen’s University of Belfast touches on the social need for this evolution of the two media into a new form of entertainment.  Their research indicated that gamers want the narrative cut-scenes to be interactive and playable as well. [1]

3. Future (2011) – The advent of technologies like the Nintendo Wii, the PlayStation Move, and Xbox’s Kinect will continue to put gamers into the action in ways that once seemed like science fiction.  At the same time, Hollywood is trying to distinguish itself with 3D technology to make movies more immersive.  However, even with this latest defensive move, movies remain passive viewing experiences.


[1] Mallon, B., Webb, B. (2005). Stand up and take your place: identifying narrative elements in narrative adventure and role-play games. Computers in Entertainment. Retrieved on April 12, 2011 from

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