Much has been written about the disappointing box office figures of the last quarter of 2011. An article in the Chicago Tribune asked six so-called experts about the drop in box office revenue for the year in general. Amazingly enough, two words never popped up. There was a lot of talk about marketing and technology and franchising, but not once was the issue of video games addressed. This should be especially disconcerting to fans of holiday season movies. While the cinema experienced a shortage of critical and commercial blockbusters in the fall of 2011, the video game industry may well have hit a peak in both terms.
More than half of the list of top ten video games of 2011 in the opinion of NPR’s Harold Goldberg were released between October and the end of the year. Most of those games also pop up on other top ten lists of best video games of the year. In other words, at the exact same time that Hollywood was experiencing its worst weeks of the year, gamers were strapped in front of their big screen televisions interacting with Batman and his nemeses, getting lost in the amazing universe of Skyrim, hooking up with Zelda and Link yet again and building whatever they could imagine in Minecraft.
If you really want to get an idea of why teenagers and young adults weren’t racing to movie theaters to check out the adventures of “Tintin” or getting all hyped up over their generation’s “Footloose” or figuring out that Adam Sandler was both Jill and Jack, don’t immediately look to things like too much reliance on 3D or the problems related to distribution channels.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is a particularly good starting point for those looking for real answers to why box office revenue did not just dip but did a swan dive in 2011. Here we have not just a sequel, but the second sequel to a popular game. This video game is action-packed like a summer Hollywood blockbuster. The visual approach is purely cinematic. Basically, what you have here is the video game equivalent of the third entry in an action movie franchise. Instead of dipping in quality like most movie sequels, however, the video game, according to many, exceeds those that came before it.
Many of those popular video games released late in 2011 are cinematic in scope and resemble movies in many ways. The main difference, of course, is immersion. Gamers are immersed in these amazing worlds in a way that movies cannot currently hope to duplicate. Not as long as they approach storytelling in the same way. Strangely enough, movies based on video games are usually absolute failures, yet the best video games are unquestionably inspired by the movies. And therein lies the problem for Hollywood.
The fact that the video game industry experienced one of their best falls ever, if not the best, at the same time that Hollywood was experiencing one of their worst falls in recent memory cannot be entirely coincidental. One look at the aesthetic status of video games today reveals one extremely unpleasant truth that Hollywood must face and address: thousands of young creative minds that would have gone into the movie business twenty years ago are bypassing a medium that frustrates that creativity in favor of a medium ready, willing and able to exploit it.
For more from Timothy Sexton, check out:
The Future of Video Games: Individualized Control of Outcome
Rocksmith: Video Game That Teaches How to Play Guitar With Real Guitar