Bridging the gap: when film and game aesthetics cross over

I have a piece in the latest issue of Prospect looking at the often dismayingly dismal aesthetic relationship between films and video games. I’ve pasted the first couple of paras below for your enticement: simply click through to the Prospect site to read the whole article.

Today, when you sit in a cinema, it can be hard to tell whether a trailer is for a film or a videogame. The Adventures of Tintin: The Game uses many of the same computer-generated sets, characters, sounds and scenes as Spielberg’s film, which came out recently to much fanfare. On 20th December, the gaming event of the year—Star Wars: The Old Republic—seems likely to be a far more impressive addition to its franchise than the last three films combined, with a rumoured budget of over $135m.

Yet the creative history of the crossovers between games and films is a largely wretched one. From the joyless trainwreck of the Super Mario Bros. movie in 1993—described by its star Bob Hoskins as his single biggest regret—to the more recent inanities Tomb Raider (2001) and Prince of Persia (2010), game adaptations have given cinema little more than noise. Nor have many videogames based on films impressed—most remain generic cash-ins.

The winter blockbuster season, then, raises a nagging question. If the relationship between our two great kinetic visual media is creatively so inert, would both film and videogames be well advised to steer clear of each other?

When it comes to films’ influence on games, the answer is a resounding “no.” We owe to cinema, after all, the development of almost the entire modern aesthetic of moving images. From panning shots to close-ups, zooms, fades, reverse angles and slow motion we see and describe the world today through minds trained by the conventions of cinematography—and modern videogames remain more indebted to these techniques than perhaps any other art form in our culture.

Click here to read the complete article

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