Blurring the Lines

30 03 2011

Amongst all the press material to come out this last week, from the disappointingly predictable (Fox News vs. Duke Nukem) to the glee-inducing (good job robots!), comes something genuinely uplifting.  L.A. Noire, perhaps the most-hyped game of the hour, has been honoured as an official selection at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, running from April 20 to May 1 in New York.  A screening of a single case from the crime thriller will be followed up with a Q&A on ‘the crossover between filmmaking and interactive entertainment.’  Not bad, Rockstar.

I’m a little surprised at the amount of negative comments on this news, which mostly argue that cinema and gaming should be separated mediums, or that the supposed innovation in the game is just very advanced motion capture rather than a whole new way of playing.  These are absolutely valid arguments.  All too often games that seek to be more ‘cinematic’ are simply standard fare stuffed with additional cutscenes which, however impressively executed, are antithetical to the unique quality of interactivity which this form possesses.  Likewise, much of the coverage of L.A. Noire has been focused on its mightily impressive mo-cap rather than on the gameplay itself: the meagre coverage of the latter has unearthed – shock and horror – a few problems regarding difficulty, with the game holding the player’s hand that bit too much.

Good points all round.  This once, however, I don’t think they matter.  Displays at press events and public conventions like E3 and PAX will give us the full story on all the game’s features, but that’s no reason to stop us from showing off developments in the medium at festivals like the Tribeca.  If this event sets a precedent, with every Next Big Thing in gaming clamouring to get the attention of film auteurs, then I’ll be concerned, but for now only good things can come from this. 

I can’t help but feel that part of the mindset behind negative reactions to the announcement is a feeling of gaming being in competition with other mediums, that developers need to grab onto the coattails of film, music and literature and fight their way to recognition rather than gliding serenely upwards to join their ranks.  Instead, we should recognise that no art is independent: thoughts, trends and methods drift across from one to another, ideas are borrowed and swapped and in the end all art is subject to the prevailing moods of contemporary society.  Let’s applaud Rockstar and Tribeca for sharing and conversing rather than remaining insular or elitist.

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