Times are changing. Resident angry-man Matt Reynolds is back on his Hate-Box, this time to tell you why gaming has usurped film as his pass-time of choice…
When I finished Bioshock Infinite for the first time, I sat back in my chair with my mouth agape. The conclusion, while not entirely unforeseen, still rocked me to the core. As the credits rolled, the beautiful cello and violin strains of ‘Elizabeth’ by G. Schyman washing over me, my throat caught and the hairs on my neck stood to attention. My eyes prickled; this was a deeply emotional connection for me. An emotional connection I am always looking for, be it from film, music, poetry, literature or art. The problem I have is that these days fewer and fewer offerings leave me feeling this way.
Turn the clock back ten years and I was living on my own in a poky little studio flat. I didn’t own a games console, or even a computer. A glance at the shelves lining my wall would reveal hundreds of DVDs, covering films of all genres and budgets. I had been a student of Media Production at college and film was my big passion. Every single week I would peruse the shelves in Tesco to see what new major films were out; and many a day would find me taking a trip into Bristol to see what new independent and foreign films I could snap up at my local DVD specialist. I was unemployed at the time and would get through four or five films a day. It was literally all I did.
A look at my bookshelf today won’t find a single film. A couple of music DVDs aside, my shelves are filled with 360, Wii and now PS3 games. Why is this? Well – for me, the medium of film no longer comes close to satisfying my emotional, audiovisual and intellectual needs. I still watch films, but they have become a largely disposable commodity to me – I no longer buy them and very rarely visit the cinema. For me personally, the quality of cinema has taken a massive downturn over the last few years, the mainstream seemingly content to make all its money funding endless comic book adaptations that are creatively bankrupt. It’s such a lazy thing to do, but as the success of movies like the godawful Avengers proves, it’s an easy way to make big, big money. World cinema is still capable of throwing up some originality, but largely for me is content to replicate similar genre pieces ad infinitum. Television is where it’s at for me as far as passive media goes, long-running shows providing far more scope for character and plot development than a two-hour movie.
Games are where my real passion lies now. Don’t get me wrong, in terms of writing and performance games still have some way to go to match the credibility of top-tier filmmaking. But the interactivity; the ability to influence narrative through player choice, and just the sheer opportunity to completely immerse myself in an open world and inhabit an entirely different universe is one that is vastly more alluring to me. Like television shows, long-running game franchises such as Mass Effect allow me the time and scope to really get to know characters far more in-depth than a two-hour movie. In a film like Avatar I am shown a rich, colourful, inviting new world, but I’ll never get to truly know it. In a game like Skyrim I am free to wander the land discovering new adventures at every turn – or I can live contentedly as a woodcutter or blacksmith.
Despite what some developers think (David Cage I’m looking at you); games aren’t movies. But that’s what makes them special – and in my eyes, the experience is more often than not a more fulfilling one.
– Matt Reynolds Tweet his ass @thelostmoment