Will the movie theatre experience/medium die? Will video games erode and ingratiate themselves into the mass market that Hollywood has taken a century to create? Will we be “playing” movies in the future?
What do I look like, some sort of turban wearing, fair ground, side show seer? I don’t know! I will venture to say that I am currently moving into a deep fascination with open-ended, non-linear video games, the ones that play very much like a movie, interspersed with game elements, resulting in multiple endings. I’ve noticed that my most satisfying game experiences come from these kinds of games – Silent Hill, BioShock (One and Two) and even FallOut 3. All these games have open-ended game play where the outcome of the game might be different due to certain choices made through the game.
I’ve just finished Heavy Rain last night and I have to say it’s the closest to actually playing a movie I’ve ever experienced. Every piece of literature that has been written about this game boasts that every choice, every conversation, every missed step (or decisive move) ripples out to the end result of the game. I ran through the game from Wednesday night and had finished it within a few hours over these 4 nights so the game isn’t a 20 hour epic like the others I’ve mentioned, since the designers have to cram all the different endings/scenarios, unused, into one disk. While the shortened game-play is an obvious limitation to this kind of genre and it’s hardware, HR makes up for it by engaging you with such heavy atmosphere that you’ll swear David Fincher himself had a hand in creating this game. Armed with the knowledge that I could have saved “this person” or wound up with a different result by not “doing this action” I’m more invested to re-play it, changing my direction.
After all this gushing, I have to say the game isn’t perfect. Moving the character involves pressing the R2 trigger and the left analog stick, which results in weird pirouettes and filthy swearing shouting at the screen when the character doesn’t stop in the place where you want them to go. Camera angles can be changed by a press of a button and I found myself forgetting this fact and probably missing a clue here and there. Choosing what the character is thinking as they’re walking through a crime scene is a bit distracting and really should be shunted to slower moments within the action. Minigames require that you mash a series of buttons in accordance with what’s on the screen: to climb a muddy embankment you need to press and hold the Square, the Triangle, the R2 trigger and then the R1 button in succession. Different, but fun, nonetheless.
Overall, I’m impressed. If this is the future of entertainment, the evolution of movies, then I welcome it.