LGF Panel: Looking beyond movies for inspiration

Gamemakers need to learn from movies but ultimately find their own way, say EA's Will Byles and Wayne Stables.

by

LONDON--According to Will Byles, an art director at Electronic Arts who previously ran his own film company, games need to evolve away from film and develop their own language. Byles copresented the session titled "Harry Potter: Film Meets Game" with EA colleague Wayne Stables at the Game Developers Conference London yesterday. The two discussed how a video game's "language" still borrows heavily from films, and why it's time to move past those conventions.

"Film has developed its own language, and it's really complex. We understand it fluently, but we don't know that we understand. The first films they did, they didn't have any language for this new medium, so they used an old language. They used text. They thought the audience wouldn't understand unless they wrote it down for them."

Byles went on to point out that when films first became popular, they borrowed heavily from theatre, using such conventions as a curtain falling to denote the end of a scene. At the time, this was easily understandable to a theatre-savvy audience, who would be used to seeing it happen when stagehands moved furniture and set the next scene. But there are other, more complex ideas that have evolved since then and established themselves firmly in cinematic tradition.

"There are things like the 180-degree rule, which is also called 'crossing the line'. When you're filming two people talking to each other, you need to film them from side to side, because if you break the rule and film from the other side then it looks like they're on the opposite side of each other. You might not know about this rule, but you'd definitely know if you saw it broken."

In turn, games are beginning to evolve a language of their own, which Byles specified. "What happens when you shoot a red barrel in a video game? Right, it explodes. Every gamer knows that. That's game language."

Byles believes that in much the same way as events no longer have to be explained in text to the viewer of a movie, games can now move away from using rules taken from film. "We can start steering away from some of the trappings of other media and start marching to our own tune."

He also discussed the power of emotions in games, and how games can and should make use of a much wider range of emotions than those that people feel when reading or watching media. "Emotion in games is kind of this thing we're chasing. Recently I went to a talk by Will Wright, and he said that films have passive emotion but in games you have firsthand emotion. That made me think, 'What does he mean by that?'"

"When I played Grand Theft Auto for the first time, I saw a red light and I stopped. Then I realised I didn't have to do that, so I didn't, but I felt guilty! There are a whole bunch of emotions you can use in games that you can't use in film. Like guilt. You can't make someone feel guilty in a film. Also things like trepidation. I remember playing a game and hearing a noise behind a door and thinking 'I don't want to go through the door!' You've got a much stronger pallet in games."

Wayne Stables, who was lighting lead on EA's Harry Potter: Goblet of Fire and previously worked on the The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy while at WETA Digital, told the audience that there were several common misconceptions about games versus movies that people should overturn. "One of the things I found when coming to the games industry [from film] was there's this misconception that things are much more complex in games."

He also talked about some of the contrasting elements between movies and games. "One of the differences is that there is a bigger budget. It costs more money to make movies. It also takes an incredibly long time to get anything done. There are more people--in fact there's a point where it just gets overly saturated. Film obviously doesn't work in real time--it takes eight hours per frame."

Byles and Stables both bring moviemaking experience to the video game industry, and their message that games can both use the lessons of film as well as build on their unique strengths was listened to by a wide range of industry representatives at GDC London today.

GDC London, which is part of the London Games Festival, continues until October 4.

Discussion

27 comments
_Sam_
_Sam_

there have been some good games based off movies, but most of them sucked IMO

ChitoKiryoku
ChitoKiryoku

the problem isn't knock offs, you have to understand what they're saying here. Making a video game based on a movie is like... translating it to a different language. Say you speak both english and dutch (that's me) it can be fun to read a story in both languages because there'll be differences. Problem is, those video games tend to not get translated, they're just the same thing only it's a game not a movie. What it basically comes down to is, take a movie knock off video game in mind. Would a game like that, even with original characters and story line, ever been made if it wasn't based on a movie? Of course not. Game producers need to think like that.

DasLaMar
DasLaMar

Amen to that i'm really tired of games usings knock off matrix, star wars, saving priavite ryan, and lord of the rings story lines.

A7Xfan
A7Xfan

...I've been saying "games need to move away from movies and form their own mold" for years. Now they say it. I knew I was right. hehe

ardandil
ardandil

"When I played Grand Theft Auto for the first time, I saw a red light and I stopped. Then I realised I didn't have to do that, so I didn't, but I felt guilty!" who do that??? the movies are the ones that need to learn from games, in some point of the future, im sure they both are going to be one, or the at least some new media will born from them.

jakeboudville
jakeboudville

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Sagacious_Tien
Sagacious_Tien

It's always the same thing in games - we're getting our own language as well. There is always the scripted storyline, the busty heroine/victim, the world ending plot, the ancient evil etc etc. But i can also agree with their ideals. Things like Oddworld and the newly announced Heavy Rain can at least attempt to breathe something fresh into the increasingly stale feel of games today.

blackIceJoe
blackIceJoe

Thats true but some times you need to look at movies and video games at the same time to get ideas for each other. Like taking some thing from a game and making it better on film. But can also be said the other way around too. But at the same time people need to stop looking at each other and putting them in the same field they are both different things and should stay that way.

the_real_VIP
the_real_VIP

Karjah: true. Something's not right at EA... and never was.

TintedChimes
TintedChimes

I just know that the only emotion I want to feel significantly is fun! Otherwise, do your best and try to let me be immersed in the environment.

wooooode
wooooode

This is excactly what I love about games, well at least the games I love. It is like in RE you get to the end of the hall and know you have to grab that item but you know as soon as you do there will be a horde of enemies to fight, and the music tells you this all by change speed and getting louder.

WolfSkill5544
WolfSkill5544

Very interesting comment. It's gonna be hard for developers to change the way they create games from creating movies, because most of the gamers out there are used to see that basis in games.

DJGeki
DJGeki

blackthegame and ghostadv: they're trying to say that they want game developers to stop emulating ONLY what movies do, and take cinematic overtones out of games in exchange for the stronger ability to engage a player in the role of the character they're playing. I think they were stretching for a topic here, and that's the reason for their comments. It won't be until movies go away that other media will stop using their 'language'. One of the great things about films (putting aside the major complaint that nothing original has come out in a very long time) is that the movie industry as a whole has spent almost 100 years perfecting the art of shooting (film...). Movies are integral as either commentary on society or escape from daily life in most parts of the modern world. Game development lacks about 60 years (give or take 10 depending on how you see the timeline) of experimentation, and polish, and yet has attempted to take the same path as theatrical-quality film. If you play Final Fantasy VII and don't think the cinemas were influenced heavily by movies, you're deluding yourself. If you play Halo and images of Starship Troopers don't pop into your head occasionally, you've missed the point. Some of the strongest pieces of media in the Western world are those that reference portions of our entertainment/real-life lives. Ever seen "The Game" with Michael Douglas? If you haven't, you should, and then you should ask yourself the question, "Why was there so much in that movie that felt real?" They obviously don't want to steer totally away from the "language" of movies, but games require that language to make some of their experiences express the emotion necessary in the proper fashion.

blackthegame
blackthegame

dont worry ghostadv, your not theonly one.

ghostadv
ghostadv

I don't understand what they were trying to say. Is it just me?

rckbikes
rckbikes

i don't understand, everyone is saying 'games are changing' yet i'm not seeing any results.

cesarotromundo
cesarotromundo

just stop making games out of lame movies like "Cars" and "robots" those games stink

Karjah
Karjah

the IRONY of these guys being employed by EA games the king of making crappy cash cow movie games is sad. Someone pick these guys up and give them a few thousand to try a few experimental projects. They have it down right. Bioware I'm looking at you. :P

Cow7
Cow7

LGF isn't that a gang? i know its lion gate films but theres a gang called LGF too. i just found out >_>.

gdogg4210
gdogg4210

"Game makers need to learn from movies, but ultimately find their own way" could not agree more, crap games that are released along movies must end

SergeStorms
SergeStorms

I am not sure what the point of all that is. Films are different from games. OK.

GMAN32X
GMAN32X

Byles makes an excellent point. Games are at a crossroads and the continual need for new/fresh ideas will hopefully lead developers away from cashing in on old licenses and encourage them to create new experiences and new levels of interaction. IMO, thats what makes a game so much fun: immersion.