Crossovers between films and games.

  • As video games became more popular, and made more money, more time was put aside to ‘script’ games
  • Cut scenes began to emerge, providing players with informative cinematic transitions between game sections
  • Developers began to base video games on Hollywood Blockbusters, for example E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (Atari, 1982)
  • Video games started out without any form of narrative, for example Pong (Atari, 1972)
  • One of the first massively successful video games to implement a typical protagonist/antagonist narrative was Super Mario Bros. (1985, Nintendo)
  • Nowadays, plot is an essential part of the modern video game industry

A apparent difference between games and film is the feature of player participation. Modern games involve plentiful cinematic experience, which is made more complex by the way games are engaged with by the player. Interactivity is key in the games sphere. Both mediums are fundamentally in different positions – Films ability to time the progression of the narrative plot which maximises its impact. Games construct narrative by allowing the player to explore and uncover narrative by exploring and completing sections of a game.

Games are, generally, much more demanding forms of audio-visual entertainment: popular, mainstream games require sustained work of a kind that is not usually associated with the experience of popular, mainstream cinema.” (King & Krzywinska, 2002. p.23)

Narrative is central to the experience and construction of film. With the lack of interactivity within film means that those involved within the creation of a film; writers and directors have complete control over the progression of narrative and how it unfolds, divulging narrative content occurs only when the director intends.

Developers within the game industry seek to portray compelling narrative within their games, developers seek inspiration from the film industry and integrate many techniques into their games.

Despite their differences, games and film share similarities. Both art forms embrace and learn from each other In terms or narrative and visual aesthetics. Films such as Saving Private Ryan (1998) have clearly influenced games series’ such as Medal of Honor (1999-2012) and the flourishing  Call of Duty series (2003-2012)

Will Brooker states in Videogames and the “Cinematic” ,“Games continue to simulate mediated experience is underscored by the way they digitally recreate the view through a camera lens, rather than the human eye.” (Brooker, 2009, p.126)

The presence of the camera is predominant in Max Payne 3, as lens flare is used throughout the game, with familiar thematic and visuals to create distortion and represents how Max see’s the world, these techniques are also dominant in Man On Fire (2004) Both Man on Fire and Max Payne 3 (2012) use on screen text for style and to place emphasis in terms on highlighting important segments.

man on fire max payne 3

Camera techniques and other cinematic conventions are also evident in the first Max Payne game; players navigate through a part of the game where players are immersed in a dark nightmare where a fish-eye lens is used to showcase Max’s drug hallucinations.

max payne

Max Payne (2001)

  • Influenced by Hong Kong action cinema genre, mostly the work of John Woo and Film Noir
  • First game to incorporate bullet time effect which was popularised in The Matrix (1999)

Even though the Film noir period ended in the late 1950’s, the style and characteristics still influences modern Hollywood films, not only does the classic film noir period inspire films, but also games too, which is evident in Max payne through characterizations such as obscure camera angles, low-key lighting and deep dark shadows. Another aspect from the classic noir period that is heavily predominant throughout the max payne series is non-linear plot lines and the use of flashbacks. Stories regarding crime from the perspective of the investigator is featured in classic film noir film’s such as Double Indemnity(1944) these crimes normally consist of crimes of passion such as murder which is also the case throughout the Max Payne series. Protagonists moral judgement is questionable in classic noir films which is also the case in Max Payne, characteristics of Max Payne include being mentally unstable and requires Max to be involved with criminals in order to get answers over his murdered family and seek revenge.


King, G. and Kryzwinska, T. (2002) Screenplay: Cinema/videogames/Interface. 1st ed. London: Wallflower Press.

Brooker, W. (2009) Camera-eye, cg-eye: videogames and the “cinematic”. Cinema Journal [online]. 48 (3), pp. 112-128. [Accessed 28 April 2013].



Discussions held during the workshop, Monday 11th of March

During the Monday workshop myself, Ed and Rod discussed how our projects were progressing. I recommended that Ed looked into existing videos on youtube which included edited speeches of George Bush, where a narrative was created from editing pre-existing footage. These speeches are originally supposed to be of a serious nature, normally addressing a serious situation and a attempt from Bush to install faith into the USA citizens. However, the edited piece is used to portray George Bush in an entirely different light: as an incompetent moron, this is showcased through humour, through careful selecting segments; words and sentences from a number of  pre-existing speeches to form a hilarious video. This relates to Ed’s project as he plans on using pre-existing footage (from documentaries focusing on the production of food and animal documentaries) to make a particular point about the subject through editing existing footage to form his own narrative, with the addition of a narrator. As we discussed further, I also considered implementing a narrator to give the avatar/protagonist instructions, so the narrator works as the same way a player would in a game, through narration the audience would get the sense the narrator is also the player/director within the film.

For my project I was advised to research Ian Bogost (a videogame designer, critic and researcher) specifically the article Pervasive games (2007) and also his games, which are about social and political issues: I was also advised to research the hot topic: Gameification, where games influence real life situations. On Hardeep’s game of life (on radio 4) Hardeep is joined by game designers, in which they hold discussions about how games are creeping into every aspect of our lives and have the power to make us better people.

A film that Rod suggested to me was Elephant (2003) which takes place in a fictional High School, in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon and chronicles the events surrounding a school shooting, based in part on the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. I was told parts of the film almost feel like a game, so I watched a clip on youtube and have to agree certain scenes are reminiscent of particular video games due to the aesthetics, such as the use of over the shoulder third-person camera techniques and also the heavy use of corridors, with the subject featured compositionally in the middle shooting down fellow students, which reminds me of Max Payne (2001) and aspects of classic arcade games.

I mentioned to both Rod and Ed that I wanted the main character’s appearance to change through moral decisions made by the viewer(s) and was advised to look at Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray which relates to my project as the portrait of Dorian changes over the course of time with each sin displayed as a disfigurement of his form, through a sign of ageing. We then discussed further how I would technically execute the appearance of the protagonist (avatar) changing throughout the project, it was agreed that I should showcase this slowly throughout the film and the audience should slowly see the transformation, rather than cutting from one scene, then to another where the audience would see the drastic change – I want it to occur slowly, as the audience progress through the narrative  by choosing particular decisions. Ed suggested using a mark-up artist rather than adding the effects in post-production in adobe after effects. I could achieve this by placing the camera in a steady place and ensure both takes are identical, the subject matter would have to be in the exact same position in both scenes, then slowly cross fade the scene with the scene where the subject is covered in make-up would be more predominate.

Lev Manovich – Navigable space

Doom and Myst

– There is a contrast between game design and fiction history. Fiction writers tend to focus on individual characters in detail, also the characters problems are identified and showcased, for example, and the character eventually overcomes these problems at the end. Richard Garriot, the designer of classical RPG Ultima series has a different approach, “I have the world. I have the message. And then the characters are there to support the world and the message.”

– Games such as Doom (1993) and Myst (1993) create a spatial journey. Navigation through the 2D/3D digital environment is the key to such games. Space dictates the story.

– Narrative moves forward through the player interacting with the environment, Manovich argues that traditional mediums of narrative, storytelling, modern literature, theatre and cinema the story tends to move forward through physiological tension between characters, the plot in a computer game is moved forward by interaction of the user, discovering new locations as the main hero (avatar) travels through the digital space. (Manovich, 2001)

– Playing a computer game, navigating through a computer space creates the position of the explorer.

– With databases the narrative is replaced by a list of items, the 3-D scene becomes a list of separate objects.

– Virtual computer space is compared to installations in modern art, in regards to how modern art installations combines videos, images, text and graphics and 3D elements. The viewer is left to determine the order of the information

– A database is an essential part of a game or a computer program. As a concept in computer science, a database is an efficient system for organizing, storing, and retrieving information.

– Manovich connects the concept of database in new media to cinema. Database cinema refers to a database system that has been long used in cinema – materials that have been gathered during the shooting which are then stored in to digital files, these files are then organised and then constructed into a narrative.

L, Manovich. (2001). Navigable space. In: L, Manovich The Language of New Media. USA: The MIT Press. 244-285.

id software. (1993) Doom, computer game: PC, GT Interactive.

Cyan. (1993) Myst, computer game: PC, Broderbund

Intensive lecture – composition

Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner to diverse elements at the painter’s command to express his feelings. – Henri Matisse

Just by pointing a camera at something we’re arranging the objects infront of us, we’re controlling what we record.

Rule of thirds. Unconsciously we use the rules of thirds in contemporary work, which can be found through browsing through photos on flickr, many users use the rule of thirds unintentionally.


Composition in context, example: Interviews – the illusion of the interviewee not knowing he/she is not being filmed, the individual looks at the interviewee who is off camera.


Context is everything in terms of composition, for example a newsreader tends to look directly into the camera to address the audience, if the newsreader started to look off camera and interactive with an individual this would completely change the context of the piece.

Whereas video diaries on youtube there is no mediation between the object and us, the viewers.

jackson pollock

Jackson Pollock, Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist),1950, National Gallery of Art, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 1976.37.1

There is no sense of composition in this piece, it rather represents raw human emotion.

– Reproduction of the image is a metaphor for the use of industrialisation and how images can lose aura through digital reproduction.

Existing examples of interactive videos.

These videos generally consist of interactive actions where the viewer has the chance to influence the outcome of the narrative.

The Girlfriend Game is a three-part interactive video with the goal to get the female character in to the bedroom. This video has been created for comic effect, yet it still relies fundamentally on user-interaction within the piece. The addition of informing the viewer, ‘game over’ when particular decisions are made gives the video a videogame feel.

The example above is the aptly named Interactive Zombie Movie Adventure for Hell Pizza from New Zealand. Ultimately it is a prime example of how a narrative can be crafted with alternate paths for the user to explore, with this addition the viewer/participant would revisit certain segments out of curiosity.

Created for the Drop the weapons campaign, this realistic video seeks to educate people about the consequences of making the wrong decisions through engaging the viewer and allowing them to make choices . The video also showcases how making small, non-significant decisions (at early stages) can have major consequence later in the video. The first person perspective enhances the viewers participation – as the main character, who the viewer navigates and controls to a certain degree is an a avatar. I intend to feature the first-person perspective in my piece when the audience is giving decisions to make.

Camera workshop on the Canon 60D

  • DSLR Use electronic shutter.
  • Shutter opens for 50% of the time
  • Shutter speed at 1/48 1/50, 1/60 cinematic effect
  • Higher shutter speeds creates a more jerkier effect
  • Strobe lighting can disrupt the overall effect and quality of the image
  • Overheating – DSLR’s are not designed solely for video, they tend to overheat if shooting is longer than 10 minutes.
  • Bigger sensor in the DSLR’s. More than most standard cameras.
  •  Bokeh – twinkles of light in the background, when out of focus. Shallow depth of field.
  • Best to shoot in Progressive.
  • The more the camera weighs the more stable it is. Grip equipment is recommended. Fig rig or a tripod.

For this project I intend to use both the Canon 60D and the Panasonic HMC Video camera

Complex Narratives by Jan Simons

Jan Simons (2008): Complex narratives, New Review of Film and
Television Studies, 6:2, 111-126

– Edward Branigan refers to forking paths as a “generic form of narrative.” In which forking-paths underlines all narrative and argues forking-path narratives are not complex at all, as conventional narratives tend to include multiple drafts.

– Forking-path narratives are not considered a new type of cinema, just an extension of longstanding narrative forms.
– Forking-path narratives are seen not to be that complex at all and limit the potential for complex narratives such as; parallel histories, due to linear narratives and forward motion in regards to story-telling and a set chronological order.

– Jan Simons argues that games can be more ‘predestined than narratives due top the outcome of a game are determined by the rules o the game, players are not often constrained by these rules. ’

– In Lars Von Trier, in whose films instead of the narrator simply narrating the events as they occur, but instead tells the characters what to do, similar to how a individual playing a game controls the actions of the avatar.