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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Forget Games, Can Movies Get Their Citizen Kane?

It's amazing how little Stay Alive actually knows about the videogame culture in which its terror-lite tale is set."

All of the reviews for the gamer horror movie read more or less like this, and it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. What's sad is that it beat it's opening projection and may well be slated for a sequel. This goes for Doom as well. Everytime I see this happen, I think to myself ... Serenity will probably be the last Firefly project.

Hollywood seems to be divided into making two kinds of movies - one are good flicks that nobody watches, and the other are bad flicks that most people watch. I'm just as guilty of this as anyone else. I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain or Walk The Line, but I have seen Doom. Art has often had to make this balancing act - between highbrow and mainstream. Yet, movies weren't always this divided. Sure, we've always had B-movies and genre films to appeal to the masses, but there's a whole library of classics out there that were both wildly popular and artistically sound. Hitchcock was renowned for doing highly artistic projects, complete with surrealistic Dali designed sequences and lofty plot elements, and yet he was so popular the studios didn't dare turn him down.

And yet, I bet a lot more people have seen Ang Lee's Hulk than his Oscar winner.

So when games have been put to a test for artistic merit like, where is it's Citizen Kane, I think we have to ask ... do movies even qualify for this test anymore? Sure, there are some very good artistic movies out there ... largely funded by the The Rock, Rob Schnieder and sequels. So far, there is no need for gaming companies to put out a "good" (as in artistic) game just to appease an awards show or their public image. Gaming companies are generally just out to sell games. So why should EA waste any production dollars on a game based on it's artistic merit as opposed to it's market value?

More to the point ... as games get increasing Hollywood ... will they ever be likely to find their Citizen Kane? At best, Hollywood reserves it's arthouse pieces for a showcase and maybe, hopefully, an Oscar will help sell the film on DVD. I can't say this is an argument for games to get an awards show ... because I can't really get excited about games emulating any industry, in any way, that has Stay Alive as the third highest box office winner it's opening weekend.

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