Emerging Technology and its Effect on Video Games and Cinema

Board member John Espey sheds some light thoughts on Transmedia.

How would you envision the new way of experiencing expansive and immersive entertainment in cinema?

Here you are, the screen has just faded into a first person view inside a cryogenic chamber. A voice tells you that you are awake and ready for duty. Slowly you are granted more controls: the ability to look around, move, jump, crouch, pick things up, and hit people with them. A beautiful digital woman approaches and tells you, by bobbing her head up and down for 10 seconds, her name is Avalon and she is your new partner in this intergalactic mission. This is obviously a video game, and I am already taken out of the story. Instead of listening to Avalon ramble on mission details, I run around the room and jump on computers and prop machinery. I find a wrench, and I decide to hit Avalon with it. What does she do? Nothing. She is still bobbing her head and talking about who knows what.

Video games have terrible scripts, and the worst acting. They need to take some important lessons from script writing and directing actors. Stop the excessive exposition, and look for real motivations to character behavior.

What is interesting to me though, is that cinema is starting to adopt trends in video games. In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, it felt like the goblin king was one of several boss levels Bilbo would have to win; it was practically a deus ex-machine in Oblivion when Jack could heal three people with one medpack. Audiences grant so much suspension of disbelief to these plot points, probably because of video games.

Both cinema and video games are merging in a new kind of interactive entertainment that looks more like a “Choose Your Own Adventure“, than “Mr. Game and Watch” or “Lawrence of Arabia.” Today, we can be in the privacy of our own homes, get theater quality picture and audio, and embark on a 200 hour adventure as an assassin in the Dark Ages.

I think this is great for businesses in the entertainment industry because now the tools, skills, talent, and tech can be interchanged and shared between industries. Of course, it wont be called a video game, or interactive tv episode, it will be an app. With all of this development and sharing of talent, eventually the acting and writing will improve, and academy award winning actors will strap on the mocap devices and run around a green screen playground. Will this mean I have to give Meryl Streep a cut of my YouTube earnings when my replay video goes viral? Lets cross that bridge when we come to it.

At this point, cinema, television, and video games are still growing industries, and quite young compared to the other major art forms. If you take a quick peak at the modern marvels of prototype cameras, even traditional photography is going to be completely transformed by gigapixel images, and plenoptic lenses, where the focus can be chosen digitally after the shoot.

Not only are cameras improving, but motion capture, face and voice recognition, and three dimensional tracking are all possible and getting better. So inspiring is this new kind of imaging, that we can conceive of movies that will focus wherever you as an audience are looking. You’ll be able to zoom in on Ann Hathaway’s eyes or Arnold’s muscles, just by expressing your desires to a hidden motion capture device in your TV.

Hold up! This kind of thing sounds more useful for video games than movies. After all, movies are shot from scripts, which are totally deterministic. The audience is shown how everything happens. Video games are participatory, so the audience has to help the script get accomplished. Some people will still want to just watch while others need to play. This is true for Baseball as well. Our current best example of how this is already playing out? Just check out broadcasted competitions of Star Craft in Korea. Sports, movies, and videos games, all in one. The future is here.

To read more on Transmedia storytelling, here is link to the website of “Transmedia Storyteller” about Transmedia narrative and its form : http://www.tstoryteller.com/transmedia-storytelling

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