I Hereby Declare Video Games The Seventh Art

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During the winter season of 2007/2008  there was a massive screenwriters strike. To be precise, a television writers strike. The Writers Guild Of America were asking to be paid at least the same movie screenwriters were. Some TV shows had to be put on hold, and the release of a few others postponed. The feud went on for many weeks, and after hard negotiations the unions and the industry came to a satisfying agreement.

This conflict marked a hinge moment for the entertainment industry. Just after the strike, TV shows started walking the path to an unprecedented supremacy. In the United States there were a few TV series that went on for several seasons, and gathered lots of followers – such as E.R., 24, The X-Files, The Sopranos or Friends. But worldwide, the series fever started right then.

It could not have been coincidental. In the 2008’s Argentina, Lost became the mandatory conversation topic. But season 1 had been broadcasted in 2004, so how could that be? I am telling you, it was the strike. People was getting tired of watching lame film after lame film. Movies were getting expensive and irrelevant. Every major production was either a remake or a sequel, and people turned to the small screen. We Argentinians are fierce TV series fans – Netflixing should become the new national sport. If you ask around, the first TV series that got most people hooked was the very Lost. Imagine the collective disappointment when JJ Abrahams threw us that disastrous ending…some things are best left forgotten.

Hollywood is every bit like a dinosaur: big, old and loud. Hollywood has always been considered more important than the smaller screen but, the mecca of the best ideas? Not necessarily. The feature film format was suddenly too constraining. The fresh ideas were too revolutionary for the industry’s conservative producers.

So, the brightest minds took it to the TV sets. Now that TV screenwriters were properly funded, there was also money to produce innovative content. Although this is utterly subjective, when was the last time you saw a movie and thought ‘this is one for the ages’? I cannot remember myself. It is not fair to compare the time-limited experience that is a film with six seasons of excitement, but still…there is something that Hollywood is just missing.

And now that TV lives again, courtesy of on demand services, Hollywood should better snap out of it or go out of business altogether. Now let me break it to you, there is a place where the best of these two worlds collide. Who could have foreseen it? Video games are now the platform where technology and creativity produce the most memorable experiences ever.

If you are a well seasoned gamer, you may have noticed that current games are absolutely cinematic. It used to be about the gameplay, about the challenge, about completing an objective or achieving something. In the vast majority of today’s video games your character does not even die. Sometimes it feels as if the gameplay was somewhat secondary. Secondary to the brilliant plots, the spectacular cut scenes, the beautiful soundtracks.

Yeap, modern video games are just like movies. Even better – video games mix the spectacular visuals and sounds you find in movies with the prolonged experience you get from several episodes of a TV show. The stakes are so high and the production efforts so big that Hollywood stars are being hired for video games making. And not just as voice actors, uh? We are talking about leading roles here. Look at these two names the creators of Beyond Two Souls (a game) managed to cast.

video games

In 2014 a new installment of the Silent Hill franchise was announced. A playable teaser was released, which featured no other than Norman Reedus from The Walking Dead! And wait, there is more – Guillermo del Toro was going to direct it. Yes, the Academy Award Nominated director. Sadly, the project was cancelled because of the enormous production costs.

I told you the stakes were high.

The best music artists are also on the payroll of the gaming industry. Composer Nobuo Ouematsu was critically acclaimed for the soundtrack of Final Fantasy II, back in 1992. He became respected in a time when games were just ‘children stuff’.

Nowadays artists know the potential the gaming field has. Developers are willing to invest whatever it takes to create a great product. The following song was originally composed and produced for the upcoming installment of Resident Evil.

What is the moral of the story then? Well, there are many good ideas out there. Lots of brilliant minds. Armies of creatives and producers. Thing is, creativity does not do very well in inflexible environments. When a format becomes too rigid, creativity flees.

Looks like Darwin’s theory of the evolution seems to apply to the entertainment industry. Only those formats willing and able to adapt will get to see another day.

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