[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 3 July, 2004, 08:30 GMT 09:30 UK
When games collide with movie makers
What happens when the film industry gets more interested in video games, asks Daniel Etherington of BBC Collective in his weekly games column.

Screengrab of Driv3er
The appeal of driving recklessly endures
Driving and shooting have long been popular themes in video games, but what exactly is the appeal of these particular activities?

Martin Edmondson, founder of Reflections Interactive Software and creator of the Driver games, thinks he knows.

He reckons one of the reasons is that they "allow you to recreate some of the classic movie moments from famous car chases, in an environment where you won't lose your licence.

"Allowing the player to get out of the car and change to another vehicle is a natural extension of this."

High expectations

The mention of movies is telling. Driv3r - Driv-three-er? - for example, seems very much to be a game with movie aspirations, with its reliance on narrative, its cut scenes and its voice cast (Michael Madsen, Ving Rhames).

In some ways, it could seem as if Edmonson is trying to hybridise gaming and movies.

"In many ways yes, and this came as a result of Driver's original inspiration, which is the car chase movies of the 70s - Bullitt, The French Connection, The Driver and so on," he says.

"The kind of people who play games these days are exactly the same people who are buying DVD films."

Screengrab of Driv3er
Film production companies are far more interested in video games than they ever have been ... They can see the rise of games as a serious complement to music and film as an accepted form of entertainment
Martin Edmondson, Reflections Interactive Software

They expect more and more from games, and crave the same kind of production values they get in DVDs, he thinks.

"Games have previously been quite amateurish in their narrative or story-related visuals, but this is gradually changing," Edmondson continues.

"We have more professional scriptwriters, musicians, actors and even professional directors and editors becoming involved.

"Years ago these tasks would be given to a programmer or artist in the studio with very mixed results," he says.

But are games developers really so unsophisticated? Do they really need to turn to a very different medium to "learn about production values and story-telling"?

It is debatable: doubtless, there is a conflict of interests in the results when combining playing with viewing.

"It's certainly true that the game provides breaks in the story-telling," says Edmondson.

"It's also likely that you will only play a game for a few hours and not return to it until later - something that never happens when watching a film."

It is a tricky balance, he says, but gamers have to accept that they are very different to films and that much of the flow of the experience has to be decided by the player.

"Film production companies are far more interested in video games than they ever have been. They can see the crossover too," says Edmondson.

"Ridley Scott Associates were genuinely keen and enthusiastic to become involved. They can see the rise of games as a serious complement to music and film as an accepted form of entertainment."

Which is all well and good, but it also smacks of that all-consuming monster, franchise culture, wherein standards are compromised in the name of creating a cross-medium brand that bulldozes its way into the consciousness.

Losing the will

Personally, I have not played a game that has made me lose the will to live as rapidly as Driver3 for a long while.

I do not have a problem, like some games commentators, with narrative-heavy games. But I do have a problem with games that promise so much and fail so roundly.

Watching its opening cut scenes, I was intrigued. But then I started actually playing the thing.

Frankly, the on-foot controls are poor, the driving is unforgiving and the graphics involve hideous amounts of pop-up.

Driver3 could have been so much better, but I suspect Reflections got intoxicated by their filmmaking aspirations and the actual playability got overlooked.

I do not really care about a game with a flashy cast, nifty "camera" angles and a "Film Director" function when it is no fun to actually play.


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific