Saturday, 22 June 2013

Games Over Films

I sat in a cinema this week on my own (I know, so brave) watching the new Superman film wishing I could do what I'd do with a game.  I wanted to stop the narrative and explore.

At the moment I'm playing The Last of Us, a survival horror classic released towards the end of a console generation and I am, to all intents and purposes playing someone else's story.  But, and there's a huge but, I can pause the story and poke around in each area of the game as much as I like.  There's reward for doing it, it's almost a necessity in a post zombie apocalypse, but I could forget my meanderings if I chose to and plough forward.  But for me they bring the world of Joel and Ellie, as they struggle across America, to life in a way a film can't do.  The better the story telling gets in games (and it is getting better) the more appealing they become and the worlds they sit within are becoming more and more tangible.  Games also tend to last considerably longer than a lonely trip to Cineworld.

I've always got lost in things.  It used to be books (sometimes it still is), sometimes it's a series of films and once in a while I'll get absorbed in a TV series.  But I've been getting lost in games for years now and they are beginning to genuinely hit the kind of heights I'd hoped they would.  This year has seen three or four titles really suck me in for weeks and of course, if you follow this site, you'll know how invested I finally got in Mass Effect.  Later this year, just as the next gen consoles are about to hit the shops, Grand Theft Auto V will arrive and Rockstar are promising a massive living breathing city for us to explore.  I'm sure there will be controversies.  It's GTA, it's meant to get the Daily Mail upset, but that misses the point.  The great joys of GTA is living in the cities, not killing everyone in it.  Feeling part of it, moving from saying 'he' about the main character and thinking of him as 'I'.  You don't ever get that feeling with a movie.

Don't get me wrong, I still love cinema, it's just started to get more frustrating as games start to move closer in terms of their story telling.  With games I may well be playing something written by someone else, but I get to be the director and if I think the main character would explore that building over there, which probably contains a nest of clickers he/she/I bloody well will.  (I'll video blog a 'clicker' attack soon, utterly terrifying.)

The Last of Us is full of cliches from every zombie movie ever but the world is so brilliantly realised, so full of subtle detail, led by some genuinely beautiful and restrained voice acting, that it surpasses a lot of those films.  But it's the bits beyond all that, the bits you could miss if you rushed through that make it special.  You never get that luxury with a film beyond hitting the pause button.  With a game I can still hit a 'pause button' and keep playing.

When did I want to pause Man of Steel?  Guess.