Malik  (8/27/04)

It's Friday and since I had to sit through my usual work meetings (it's a way to make you really appreciate your weekend...hold a bunch of lame-ass meetings just before the weekend) I had to drink a bunch of coffee.  This, in turn, caused me to be  blitzed out of my mind on the wonderful drug, so I may sound a bit more erratic...but then, I don't mind since I'm enjoying this roller coaster ride of caffeine euphoria.  Anyway, I may sound upbeat right now...but, then again, the Bitching is only about to begin.

We Do Need More Crap-tacular Movies 

Well, there is sad news for people who like movies so bad that you can't even laugh at bad that you feel ashamed for watching bad that you actually feel embarrassed for the stars and the crew who shot the movie. That news would be that the Metroid license, that John Woo recently obtained, is not being put to any real use currently, and there is no plan for it to be put into production anytime soon. It sounds like the same could also be said for the Doom license that changes hands every couple of years, and any other game license that has been obtained by a movie studio...with the sad and pathetic exception of Resident Evil: Apocalypse. 

My main issue with all of this is quite simple. It comes down to the standard movie rule that few movies are ever able to truly escape. When you look at a modern game being made into a movie, it's safe to say that the story of the film wont follow the exact story of the game. So, in effect, the movie can be seen as a sequel of the game's story. Now, for those who can't quite piece this all together yet; what usually happens with most movie sequels? They suck. So, when a movie is made from a game, what usually happens? It sucks. I know, some movies are actually good when they are sequels (T2, Godfather 2), but most just suck balls (Scream 2 & 3, Battle Royale 2). 

This rule holds especially true for video game movies. When was the last time a movie was not only good but also faithful to it's source material when it was based on a video game. While some people like to argue that RE was a good was sad and pathetic. It might have been slightly faithful to the RE (game) story line, if you ignore any of the several dozen plot holes and corrupted facts, but it was bad in terms of the movie quality; the effects were pretty bad, like the dude being cut up by the laser grid (although that was laughable, at least), the plot was stale, the plot progression was as obvious as the plot progression of a Mario game (if you're one to be blown away by the plot twists of Mario, then I must ask you to leave...NOW), and the acting was as bad as something you'd pull out of a movie made for a high school project. 

So, now that RE is put aside, what has history taught us about video game movies? Simply put, they don't work. When you look from the earliest examples (Tron doesn't was a movie first based on a fictional game setting, and the same goes for The Last Starfighter, which was bad but funny) you will find Double Dragon and Mario Brothers. If you need an explanation on what these sucked, just rent them (warning, you will feel ripped off after you pay a couple bucks to rent these), at your own discretion. Even the game franchises that were heavy with plot couldn't stand up to the movie treatment (Square needed how many years and how many firings and resignations of high ranking staff to make up for Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within?). 

There is a reason for all of this, and it's actually quite simple. Well, I should say one of several reasons, that no one seems able to grasp. The first, for games that lack a serious plot element, is that there is nothing to work with to begin with. These types of movies are seen in Double Dragon and Mario Brothers. They had nothing to build the movie off of. Plus, Mario didn't even have a real setting to go off of (how do you visualize the Mushroom Kingdom in a live action setting and still actualize it without some really bad looking CGI?). 

For games that are based on action, but contain a set plot, there's a worse problem set. Firstly, people don't play RE for the story alone. If they did, more people would just watch others play RE (which is, for the most part, incredibly boring) and not play the game. The game exists to be played. With a movie, the key element, of playing and trying to survive, is gone and you're left watching something stale and uninspiring. Plus, if the story line is somewhat solid, like the plot of RE as a series of games, it's hard to make a movie that fits in and doesn't create plot issues, like the first RE movie did. The games that would fit in this group just happen to be the most likely to make it to the big screen anytime soon; Doom and Metroid. 

Finally, for the games that are best made for a movie transition; those with lighter game play elements and heavy plot elements. These would include most RPGs and adventure games. However, the main problem comes down to two elements. Firstly, the writing needs to be of some uber-high quality. In the FF movie, the writing was horrible and didn't deliver a plot worthy of the (at the time) good FF name. Sadly, good writers are not in abundance in the film industry. Secondly, unless a game is set in the real Earth, it is hard to begin with the visualizing of the setting and the characters. Like I said with Mario Brothers; how do you visualize and create a Mushroom Kingdom (or any other fantasy based game world) that doesn't look like crap? 

Also, there is always a final issue to be taken into consideration. Very few games, especially those that are heavy on plot, can be beaten in a mere two hours, but a movie must be presented in that time frame. If a FF game (or any RPG) is presented in a span of 30-120 hours, and the plot is coming at you about 50% of the time (or more), how do you keep that same plot-heavy feel, but only take 2 hours? How do you keep the plot in the same level of quality? You cannot do it. 


While it's true that (like many people are beginning to realize) games are as much part of the entertainment industry as movies are, it must also be seen that games are as much like movies as a radio show is like a movie, or an opera. They all may contain the same general elements, but they all have a unique style that makes each grouping unique. Just like how you can take many vehicles to get from point A to point B and only one or two types will be appropriate (I may bike, walk, or drive to a store 8 blocks away...but a jet or a ship is not quite appropriate...I know it sounds dumb to actually say that, but...), the same goes for entertainment. A song could be made into a movie (but it wouldn't be too entertaining), or a radio show can be made into a movie (and The Shadow wasn't all that good of a movie, now was it?), but sometimes there is only one solution for a given plot (which is the usual case for games). 

The truth is, the interactive features that make a video game it's own unique standard cannot be replaced with a non-interactive experience. Also, a solid plot of a gaming franchise (like RE) will be followed by the fans through each successive game, but this can't be guaranteed if it moves to film. So, the plots cannot remain linked, and thus the plot falls apart. Since the plot is the only solid thing to carry over from a game to a movie, and if it cannot remain faithful, the outcome will always be something that the fans don't care for, and the people who didn't care to begin with still won't care.

Not Just Selling the Game, But Selling Out

Recently, advertising in video games has become a popular option for marketing-type people who want some further recognition for their products. At the same time, some people have become concerned that advertising real products in a game can lead to a bad situation in the end. 

There are basically three sides to this argument. On one hand, there are are people who are trying to sell a product...well, I don't give a shit about them, so I'll leave them about here. Then, the second group are those who say that the ads in a game can only make the game more realistic (I mean in a sports game, you might see an ad for Nike or Gatorade, just like you'd see at an arena for a real sports game). The third side to this would be the people who are afraid of the repercussions of ads in a video game. Sadly, this is where many people stop looking at the subject matter in detail and start to bullshit their way through some lame analysis...this, I say, since there is a fourth and most important side to this issue; the side of the geeks, the games, the people who are actually playing and not just complaining or praising a marketing ploy. 

What advertising in games means to the geeks is what should really matter, deep down, since it is not the advertisers or the so-called experts who are the target audience for the game. To leave the effects of in game ads on geeks out of the picture is a lot like having some children raised on Sesame Street, learning and enjoying their time, and then to have some 45 year old supposed expert say the show bored him so children shouldn't watch it. I mean these so-called experts on ads in games are the same type of people we always hear about who never play a game but claim to know the one good and countless bad qualities of the game. 

As a geek, I can say, with almost total certainty, that the issue of ads in a game is a pointless issue. I mean, when I play a game, I am only interested in the game play itself. If the soda machine my character flies past as he chases down a criminal/victim has the Pepsi logo on it, I wouldn't be able to tell you. That soda machine had no effect on me and didn't even register. In a football game, if a banner for Gatorade is see behind the end-zone, I wouldn't had even noticed since I'm not trying to get a player or the ball to a banner in the background. In reality, the effects of ads in games on the players are almost always minimal at best. It's like when I was far younger; I did not care for 7-Up, yet I played Cool Spot for the Genesis (which was actually a little bit more fun than I'd care to usually admit about a game that is nothing short of being a giant commercial for 7-Up) the end, I dropped a good 10 or so hours on that game in one weekend, but I didn't drink a single 7-Up. 

So, what I'm saying, in my usual long-winded way, is that even when a product is placed so strongly in a game that one cannot avoid it, it still can be ignored or tuned out simply because when a game is being played, the game is usually the only thing that matters...not the products in the game. Also, for those who say that advertising is still somewhat new to the game world, those people being these damned so-called experts, this is completely wrong. Chester Cheetah had a Genesis game (a really crappy game) in which he strived to get Cheetos, there's Cool Spot who loved his 7-Up, and even Shenmue hit soda machines which contained some awfully familiar sodas to anyone who ever shopped at a foreign grocery store (or lived in Japan). 

In the end, however, until the ads become so big that they cannot be drowned out by the game play, they will not affect anything substantial. On top of that, if the ads become large enough to be unavoidable, then the game simply wont sell, since this would ruin the experience. 


There is no problem here. In True Crime, I, like most other people, never noticed it was Puma that Nick Kang sported, I never gave a crap about what type of PDA or cell phone Sam Fisher used in Splinter just goes on. Seriously, when a game is being played, the finer details don't matter as much as the grand picture of the game (which would be the plot, if there is one, and how to keep your avatar kicking). So, no need for a solution (if there ever is a need for one, then the game in question would be so bad that it wont sell and then the problem will go away on it's, this issue is self-contained with it's own solution).


So, since I'm riding my caffeine buzz to it's fullest, I'll just say what I always say...if you've got a problem, you know what to do...and them you can feel free to write me you little opinion or put it on the forums