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Interactive terror.

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Posted 10th June 2011 at 05:34 PM by keirarts

A darkened room, the place looks a mess. Theres blood across the walls and broken furniture everywhere. From somewhere distant I can hear moaning and the crackling of fire. My friends are all in the room now, grabbing health packs and assault rifles, moving around and checking adjacent rooms.

"you ready mate" one of my friends asks.

I check my assault rifle, its fully loaded.

"lets go!" I reply.

One by one we make our way out of the room and head towards street level. The rest of the building seems as devastated as the room we left. Blood is covering the walls and floor, old boxes are scattered about. The lights are flickering and yet the building seem eerily quiet save for the sounds of burning and the low creepy moaning coming from somewhere below. Slowly I open a door and check inside, its dark and as messed up as everything else in this building, my eye catches a glimpse of something in the corner, I walk over to check it out.

A pipebomb. Could be useful.


Suddenly theres the sound of gunshots.



"nice shot" I hear one of my friends remark.

Quickly I head down towards the gunshots and find my friend dispatching the last of the infected in the building.

"where were you?" one of them asks...

"checking for ammo" I reply.

"well keep up, we need everyone keeping their eyes open"

With that we make our way outside onto the street. I look about and its clear that something especially bad has happened. Theres overturned cars, buildings on fire, littler, blood in the gutters and smashed windows all about. The infected shuffle about as if in some kind of trance.

Without warning one of my friends shoots at the shuffling zombies, the bullet catches one in the head and it drops. The others turn to look and before we know it they are running, finding a speed and determination they seemed to lack only a minute ago, and their coming right for us....

Without pause I hold the trigger down on my assault rifle and keep the barrel at head level, a group clustered near a truck goes down immediately, one I hadn't spotted leaps over a car and attacks, clawing at me frenziedly, I whack it with the butt of my assault rifle and it drops, quickly I empty the rest of my clip into its head and it stops moving. I reload.

The game is left 4 dead, and it's highly reccomended.
Basically its a multiplayer online shooter in the 1st person perspective set in a zombie apocalypse, and involves plenty of teamwork if you want to survive till the end. Find 3 other like minded friends with steam accounts and I guarentee a good time.

After a recent session a friend asked ne if they were planning on making a film of the game sometime.

"that would be good" I replied. "except they already have...sort of"

The game owes a lot to the cinematic zombie movies it homages and fans can certainly spot the references while playing, so left 4 dead players need only sift through a zombie movie fans back catalouge to get a dose of cinematic survival, but another movie wouldent hurt, so any producers reading get busy please!

The beatufiul thing about cultural products like games, books, comics, films or music is they seem to always cross-over into each others meiums, and reference each other frequently. Hence we get authors referencing their favourite films, musicians sampling movie dialouge, screen adaptations of popular books and now the videogame movie.

So far the film industry has had limited success bringing videogaming to the silver screen. Paul W.S andersons's resident evil films have been the most commercially successful vehicle to date, but lack enough of the games horror to properly appeal to me. Weirdly its a franchise that seems to get better with each film, as the filmmakers steadily abandon the games universe and go off in their own tangents.
christopher gans did a farely decent job with silent hill, part 2 of the game is still one of the best horror experiences in videogames, and the film caoptures the scares reasonably well but even that isn't a complete success. Partly I suspect its the difficulty involved in bringing an interactive medium gaming to a passive medium like film. Sure we as filmgoers get involved with the character, but we dont control them. In games we are supposed to BECOME them.

I dont however think its impossible to make a good film from a videogame. After all anyone whose seen CLUE will tell you its perfectly possible to make a good movie from a board game, so why not a video game.

In the case of resident evil and silent hill, the filmmakers borrowed the asthetics and several plot points from the game and went off and made their own movie. It helped that both games are plot heavy and have well established backgrounds outside of games with fan novels, anime ect, to fill in the gaps and give the filmmaker plenty to work with.

Doom and mario bros on the other hand were dreadful films, and not at all worth watching. The games they come from have little in defined plot, instead loosley establish a setting and then focus in on the gameplay.

It could be that the player invests more of themselves and their own imagined stories into games like these which only loosley provide the player with an idea about who they are playing, and more often than not the players stories are often better than the filmmakers. Also these films were very poorley made, seemingly by people who didn;t really understand the material they were adapting.

Whatever you think about resident evil and silent hill, they were made by fans of the franchise who understood something about the games universe.

on the flip side to this we have games like Heavy rain and Metal gear solid 4 which are seemingly desperate to be films, while retaining gameplay, and for my money their not all that successful.

Metal gear is probably the wort offender, with over an hour of 'cut scenes' rendered animated footage providing a story, before the player is allowed to do anything of substance. While Heavy rain at least allows the gamer to interact with what they are watching through quick time events, but still the 'game' came across more as an interactive movie to me.

I think the question is then, firstly how to successfully adapt a game to the screen. And secondly can a game be like a film and still be entertaining.

For the first one i'd say the filmmaker need to look at the components of the game and the aesthetics and see what can be used for the film. Character, atmosphere, tone, all these are important. Then be prepared to ditch everything else and make a movie not a game. If it means changing, cutting or altering things so be it.

Lets look at doom again.

The premise of the game was this. After an accedent involving an experimental teleportaition device on a martian moon, a lone marine finds himself stranded amongst a horde of demons and needs to find a way off the moon quickly. Queue lots of first-person levels running around corridors shooting demons.
Ok, take the setting and the character, the lone marine and incorporate a little fluff and background. Say the marine has a family at home he wants to get back to, for example. Then turn his journey into a series of events, interesting character pieces. Have him stumble across various survivors, work out a way to get rid of the demons and save the day, then give the film a proper conclusion and ending. You might find the film moves away from the game somewhat, but you have something approaching a film for people to watch, so the fans dont think "might as well just play doom"

The second question is trickier, I think like the first you need to look at the inherent differences in the mediums. I dont think games should try to be like films. That would be stupid, but it shouldent mean a game cannot have a compelling story or characters. The best games give us both and present them within the gameplay...

Best example I can think of so far is half-life 2 (check it out!)

Because if we as gamers are asked to sit and watch the plot, well we might as well just watch a movie.
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  1. Old Comment
    Stefan@Cult Labs's Avatar
    I could tell it was Left 4 Dead from the first sentence!

    I think the only film-version of a game I ever watched was the anime of Street Fighter II about 15 years ago (or something like that!) and it was really good.

    With the exception of CoD MW 1 & 2 I haven't played a game I enjoyed for quite some time; the last one, the latest Fallout, was just repetitive gameplay interspersed with cinematic cutscenes, much like you describe.

    A retro game bar opened up near me recently; dropped in and played Street Fighter II and Mario Kart on the SNES which was, to me, more fun than CoD Black Ops or any recent games I've played.

    Any must-play titles out now?
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 11th June 2011 at 06:09 AM by Stefan@Cult Labs Stefan@Cult Labs is offline
  2. Old Comment
    keirarts's Avatar
    I actually have to admit liking fallout. Its an open world game where you explore and build your own character. Not for all tastes mind.

    Lately I LOVE deadly premonition on the 360.

    Deadly Premonition (Xbox 360): Amazon.co.uk: PC & Video Games

    So far its the closet thing to a true b-movie video gaming has. Its deeply flawed with ps2-era grapghics and some pretty awful voice acting but strangely compelling.
    It 'homages' stuff like twin peaks and even attack of the killer tomatoes as well as j-horror.

    budget release as well.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 11th June 2011 at 10:35 PM by keirarts keirarts is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Stefan@Cult Labs's Avatar
    Ah, I should have said I just played the Fallout campaign in co-op with a friend; I'm guessing the online part is the really good bit!

    The campaign was actually good to start with it just got a bit repetitive...
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 13th June 2011 at 11:17 PM by Stefan@Cult Labs Stefan@Cult Labs is offline
  4. Old Comment
    keirarts's Avatar
    My problem with games at the minute is to much online reliance at the expense of single player. Too many games last about 6 hours before finishing and then rely on online for longevity.

    For a good co-op resident evil 5 is worth a look, not as good as resi 4 for single player, but the co-op is genuinely entertaining.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 26th June 2011 at 07:37 AM by keirarts keirarts is offline
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