We used to think that as video games matured, as a medium, they became more like Hollywood and focused more on character development, plot changes, and narrow, suspense-driven storytelling, rather than alternating action scenes. with cinematic cut scenes. Hello boy, we were wrong. Instead, the exact inverse has happened. Action movies have become more like video games. And you know what, this is not bad.
I thought about this while looking at John wick 3 last night. (That I loved, like I did 1 Y 2.) It’s not just that his ballet of bullets, especially that of the dogs, are so similar to video games, both in structure and form, that they seem to have been practically ripped from a controller; You can practically see health bars and stun markets above the heads of the characters.
It is also that the main costars of the series, after Keanu, with apologies to Halle Berry and Ian McShane, are not any other individual character, but the world of John Wick, the Continental and the High Table. Worldbuilding has long been a first-class citizen in tabletop and video role-playing games; Now he has also graduated in film.
Speaking of role-playing games, supporting movies are getting more and more like them too. Consider the Fast and Furious movies, or game of Thrones. Each has a core group that are clearly the “player characters”, as well as the disposable villains and extras that are “NPC”. Each begins with the characters at a relatively low level of ability / power, and over the course of the series grows to the shaking of the power world.
In Fast and Furious Vin Diesel’s character is a very good driver and mechanic; when we arrive at The fate of the furious He is a superspy capable of single-handedly opposing entire intelligence agencies. In game of Thrones we watch Arya turn into a high-level assassin before our eyes, and Jon Snow becomes one of the deadliest swordsmen in all of Westeros, casually dispatching dozens of enemies, often several simultaneously, though rarely even sweating, because … Well, there’s no real reason for that, other than that that’s what happens to player characters, isn’t it? They level up and become the best.
That used to not be the case. Jason Bourne and James Bond were superspies, but they didn’t actually get better over the course of their series, nor did they get so ridiculously powerful that they coincidentally can take down a dozen heavily armed / armored expert fighters in thirty seconds, alone, like Shaw does. in the trailer for the new one. Fast and Furious movie. Most of Jason Bourne’s action sequences are escapes; most of John Wick’s are fighters. And, of course, “one hunting a horde” has been the staple mode for first-person shooters since long before Doom.
Does the introduction of these new concepts of tropes / styles / narratives make things worse? Well, not necessarily. The Bourne series is much more robust, in terms of emotional resonance and suspense, than the John Wick series, but the latter is much more elegant, semiotically rich, and immersive. I love you both equally. It would be a shame if the only kind of action movie we see going forward was the stylized / hyper-reality of John wick But similarly, it would be a shame if Hollywood had never made those movies on the grounds that they were too brutal and unrealistic.
Ultimately, video games have expanded Hollywood’s space of possibilities, and in my opinion that’s always a good thing. Is it a universal rule that when technology introduces a new medium of storytelling, the old media soon adopt the styles and tropes of the new medium? Did the plays become more like novels after Don Quixote? Did radio become more like television after television was introduced? And if / when we find the most attractive structures for AR / VR storytelling, will video games be more like that? It seems to me quite inevitable that the answer is yes.