How video games have changed the film industry.

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For a long time, film has been top of the pile when it comes to visual storytelling, packing movie theaters and bringing in millions through rentals and streaming services with classic stories of suspense, spine-chilling tales of horror, and action-packed blockbusters. But in the last decade, slowly but surely a new challenger has emerged for our increasingly short attention spans.

In this article, we shall explore how video games have changed the film industry, and along the way have created their own set of rules and expectations.

When the movie Tron was released in 1982, it became a pioneer in cinematic interfaces with video games. This was adopted by many other blockbusters, like Steven Spielberg’s War Games (1983). Fast forward to 2020 and in part fuelled by multiple worldwide lockdowns, the video game industry has grown tremendously, with global revenues of around $180 billion. This was the first time it had bypassed the film industry and American sports, and it continues with its upward climb in revenue.

Immersive & interactive

Movies and video games are converging in the world of storytelling. Movies have adopted digital tools to tell more immersive stories, while video games themselves have become cinematic.

Movies have to compete with a far more immersive and interactive alternative. Today’s audience wants to feel as part of the game or if a movie. They want to feel immersed in it. This was not as important 20 years ago when the audience simply wanted action from their movies.

It is common for a game to have players experience close-up views of the characters and run alongside them. The film industry has also added this immersive experience by adding digital tools that can replicate how it would feel in your own video game. High-tech filmmaking techniques allow you to feel as if the action is happening right next to you, all while remaining seated by your TV or computer screen.

Overlapping narratives

Traditionally, video games had this interactive element, while the film provided a more passive experience. However, both mediums are starting to take on each other’s’ traits in different ways. Like films, many video game stories are told through cutscenes where the protagonist is guided by some sort of script or storyline constructed beforehand. Film directors tend to make decisions about what’s happening on-screen at all times, while with interactive multimedia (such as video gaming), it’s up to gamers themselves how they want things to play out during gameplay – giving them complete control over their own experience. Like the cinema, video games are becoming increasingly plot-driven and, according to Forbes, these “plot-based RPGs” (role play games) guide players through their designer’s script focused three act structures.”

Video game elements

There’s a new kind of movie that is hitting the box office in droves. The movies are based on video games and have many features from these popular pastime activities, such as respawning or going back to repeat previous levels until you get better at it, just like any gamer would do when they want to master their game! One film with this type of plot we saw recently was Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise, an army officer who has died multiple times but continues fighting through life loops every day.

Behind the screen

But it’s not just onscreen that games are influencing how movies are made; games have been used to build film sets for years now. For example, Marvel’s executives preferred using computer-generated graphics (CGI) as blueprints before creating lighting rigs or camera equipment budgets. It allows them to see how Thor will interact with Iron Man in an aerial setting. These previsualizations (previs), helps them determine the exact scene they need and what it takes to make it a reality. After a previs is accepted, the team gets a ‘Techvis,’ which details the type of filming equipment needed to make that previs a reality. This process has saved the film industry millions of dollars from potential fails of trying out their ideas blindly.

The film industry has changed exponentially over the years as technology and innovation continue to grow and  it’s clear that the lines between what constitutes “gameplay” versus the “moviegoing experience” will continue to blur even more in coming years.