Video Games



The field of computer game studies is a relatively new one, especially in terms of detailed textual analysis of the forms of games themselves (as opposed to studies based on assumptions about their social or psychological effects). A number of different theoretical paradigms are in potential competition in current efforts to map the field. Cinema might seem a logical point of reference for many games, especially with the movement of adventure-style games from text to animated graphical form, and subsequently to three-dimensional graphics, a process that began in the early 1980s. There are a number of ways that games borrow from, or can be understood in the light of, aspects of cinema. What must be avoided, however, is an "imperialist" venture of the kind feared by some game theorists (for example, Espen Aarseth's Cybertext points out fallacies in the application of literary theory to games). Perspectives drawn from the study of film offer one set of tools with which to approach computer-based games (although not all games or all types of games), tools that might be more useful in highlighting some aspects of games than others.

A number of areas of broad similarity, or overlap, between games and cinema can be identified. Direct movements from cinema to game are found in some titles, including the games that have become obligatory among the spinoff products from contemporary Hollywood blockbusters and animated features. But many games draw on cinematic resonances more generally in their use of audio-visual conventions.

If some games are based directly on films, or franchises that include films, others are associated with genres or subgenres, particularly in areas such as science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Many games draw on iconographies and audio-visual styles that can be linked to particular film titles but that have become more widely prevalent: the Blade Runner or The Lord of the Rings look, for example. Some games draw on more specific and localized cinematic devices. A well known example is the "bullet-time" mode used in the Max Payne action-adventure games (2001, 2003), based on slow-motion bullet effects used by the Hong Kong action director John Woo and especially its translation in The Matrix (1999). One mission in the game Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (2002) includes a Normandy beach-landing sequence that follows almost exactly the initial moves of the film Saving Private Ryan (1998).

It is important to acknowledge that there are major differences between games and cinema, even in the case of games with which cinema has the most in common. Games clearly need to be studied on their own terms, the criteria for which often diverge considerably from those most relevant to cinema or any other media. The act of comparison should not involve reduction of one medium to the terms of another; it should, instead, be a way of highlighting factors specific to each.



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