Many people say that video games will never be art. Personally, I think that is a load of rubbish, and games already demostrate a level of artistic expression vastly above most 'old school' artists, its just that the detractors cannot see that it is a different type of art. Some people also say that emotion cannot be delievered well in games or at least not in the same way as movies, and it is this that I am going to discuss because I am torn between the two sides of that arguement.
You see on one hand you have memorable gaming events like the death of Aeris or the majority of Mass Effect, ones that tug at your heart strings in one way or another or provide a gripping story throughout. But movies do this better for one reason and one reason alone: Actors.
Both games and movies use actors, in games it is for voice and sometimes motion capture, while movies use the actual person in a live way. While anyone who read my last blog will know I believe that games can convey some the best tales ever created, one area that really lets them down is voice acting.
I have recently played and completed Ghostbusters: The Videogame, and once I had I then watched the Blu-Ray of the first film I got with it and I noticed something, something that prompted this post. That something was Bill Murray. Now we all know he is a great actor (Lost in Translation not withstanding) but his performance of the same character in a game and in a movie is telling of why movies, to me, will always be that little bit better (but not more creative).
The animation of a videogame, while widely superior to anything that has come before it at the present time, is still unable to create a truely photorealistic human. This is mostly due to the small movements and twitching a human does, games simply cannot replicate to produce a truely believable human being. This became apparent because I was laughing at Bill Murray's lines in the film but not that much in the game.
Its an interesting point, because actors are being used more and more in games, with some significant voice talent being brought in for major games. The best the medium has to offer, games like Mass Effect or Alpha Protocol do this and do it well, but the cinematic human interaction feel they are going for always feels a little flat, and another reason for this is fluidity.
If were to actually pay attention to the way people talk to each other, you will see there is a fluidity to, one is saying something while the other is thinking what to say in response and continues pretty much as soon as the other person has finished. While I do not deny the best the medium has to offer do a fairly decent job of replicating this, it still falls wide of the mark due to how voice acting is recorded.
Again this is the fault of the medium, as voice acting isnt recorded using the voice actors being in the same room (generally), instead each actor records thier lines and then an editor splices them all together to create the conversation. I am not denying that the method works, but it rarely replicates the true fludity of a conversation as you can hear where is line is stopped and the next started, with very few interuptions or talking over another person.
Now this can have great results, but it depends no what your trying to do. In Ghostbusters, it didnt work because the animation couldnt replicate Bill Murray's ability to conduct himself, and his quick witted lines do not transfer well to the gaming medium. In something like Halo for example, it works because the tone is more serious and comedy is at a minium, letting the voice acting convey what is required well.
I guess its what your trying to accomplish that ultimatly affects what you need to be able to do with voice acting and animation as Ghostbusters was trying to be the third film in the series, though it was a good game, it was still a game and simply couldnt compete on the level the actual movies can. Halo, conversely, is a game through and through, and emulates movie action and science fiction but knows exactly what it is.
So what is the one valid reason why games will never replace movies? Actors plain and simple. Until some figures how to truely make an interactive movie, combining the best of both mediums so that photorealistic actors (or even actual actors) can be used and still give the player all those bad ass powers gamers want then movies are always going to be the superior way to show off subtle acting and get that 'real' feel.
As I have said, I am not having a real pop at gaming, this is just an exploration of a limitation of it. My previous blog showed that I believe games can provide experiences that surpass even the best movies, and I stick by that, but that comes with a certain suspension of disbelief about the way characters have converstations in games.
What do you think?