Justin C. Williams of Park City, Utah looks at games that make you feel like you’re controlling the movie.
Video games have come a long, long way from the days of Pong and Space Invaders. While cutting edge graphics are undoubtedly one of the easiest ways to judge the lengths to which video games have evolved as an art form, perhaps a more accurate method of judgment, Justin C. Williams of Park City, Utah suggests, is by taking note of how games have evolved to be able to tell stories on par with some of the greatest examples of cinema.
The medium developed as a worthy method of story-telling earlier than you might think, Justin C. Williams points out. Space Invaders was released in 1978 and featured only a solid block of enemies to shoot down, with the main and only goals being survival and reaching a new hi-score. A scant five years later, and Dragon’s Lair was released. Dragon’s Lair told the story of a knight braving a castle to save his princess from a dragon and was fully animated.
The animation was praised as being extremely high-quality, especially when compared to other arcade games at the time. Don Bluth, an ex-Disney animator, was responsible for the game’s (at the time) mind-blowing graphics. There was a trade-off, however: the gameplay was extremely simple, by necessity. Akin to a choose-your-own-adventure book, players would simply hope they were making the right choices and input them on time to avoid dying.
For a while in the early 2010s, Telltale games were considered close to the gold standard for cinematic games. Their games, usually based on classic film and television franchises like Jurassic Park, The Walking Dead, Back to the Future, and more, blended puzzle-solving and dialogue-heavy decisions to make players feel involved. What’s more, Justin C. Williams of Park City points out, the choices players make in these games would carry heavy impacts for later in the game or future installments, thereby making the player feel even more immersed in the world. Unfortunately, Telltale did little to update their gameplay over time, and it was soon considered stale.
Quantic Dream is a developer that has been producing games since 1999’s The Nomad Soul (Justin C. Williams points out this game is notable for featuring ten original songs produced by David Bowie solely for the game) but didn’t gain wide critical acclaim until 2010’s Heavy Rain. Heavy Rain’s game script is an incredible 2,000 pages and thrusts players into a mature, dramatic story of high quality that generally isn’t found in video games.
Quantic Dreams’ followup, Beyond: Two Souls upped the ante with similar gameplay, starring actress Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe with full-body motion capture and voice-acting. Justin C. Williams of Park City, Utah makes note of the fact that despite being a video game, Beyond: Two Souls actually debuted at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.