For as long as I can remember I’ve loved movies. My first movie memory is watching The Intruder Within with my parents when I was four years old. It’s an obscure made-for-TV horror film from 1981 about drillers on an oil rig off the coast of Antarctica who dig up more than they bargained for. It both thrilled and terrified me.
However, once the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) reached the shores of the US in 1986 movies took a back set to video games. This continued through my teenage years and it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that movies regained their position at the top.
By the time DVDs came along, I had already amassed a sizable VHS collection and I was loosing interest in video games. This was mostly due to the flood of first person shooters that brought nothing new to the world of gaming (and the controls becoming more complex; I longed for the days of the lone A & B buttons on the painfully rectangular NES controllers).
This, along with the introduction of DVD, played a big role in my ever growing love of film. With DVD, picture quality was superb (at least for that time) and more content could be crammed on DVDs, such as commentaries, deleted scenes, and making-of featurettes. All this was available with no complicated button combinations to learn.
Meanwhile, my friends were getting the latest video game systems and spending more time and money on video games and less on movies. I didn’t progress beyond the Dreamcast (but then again, neither did SEGA) and the PS2. That is, not until Nintendo released the Wii. But I didn’t want the Wii so much for its technological advances, but as a means to play the old NES games again.
As it turns out, my friends aren’t the only ones spending more time and money on video games. As my generation glides into their thirties, they’re still playing video games, and the younger generations are following suite. This became evident in 2008 when The Guardian reported that Halo and Grand Theft Auto IV were outselling the leading Hollywood movies of that year.
So, why is everyone playing video games, don’t they know about Blu-ray? Movies may look better than ever, but so do video games. Visual technology continues to improved for both, movies and video games. Video games are also attracting the attention of Hollywood actors. Celebrities have been lending their voice talents to video games for some time now, but games like L.A. Noire are featuring the entire actor. Motion capture isn’t just for the movies anymore.
Story lines are also improving. Many video game stories are just as good (dare I say, sometimes better) than those found in Hollywood films. With strong stories and legitimate actors as characters, players are drawn into the games more now than ever, and, unlike in the movies, players can take part in the experience first hand.
I spoke with a few avid gamers, who also love movies, and found that one of the reasons they prefer video games is the sense of accomplishment. It means more when you achieve a goal, even if it’s achieved from the comfort of your couch.
Another draw to video games is the social atmosphere. As anyone who has visited a movie theater knows, keeping quiet isn’t an easy task for most people, but while playing video games players can chat about their day or make fun of each other when they get fragged for the 100th time. Online gaming, popularized by games such as World of Warcraft, has taken the social aspect to the next level, now gamers can interact with (and make fun of) players from all over the globe.
Video games may cost more, but in the long run you get more for your money. For $10 in the theater (or $20 on video) a movie runs an average of 90 to 120 minutes (don’t forget the added cost of concessions, travel, and dealing with the jerk texting in the seat next to you). Video games run about $50, but provide upwards of 50 to 100 hours of entertainment. With the production costs of movies and video games closing in on each other, it’s no wonder why people are turning to video games to fulfill their entertainment needs.
Is there no hope for Hollywood? Are cinephiles doomed? I don’t know if movies will ever be back on top, but there are few things Hollywood could do to improve their situation.
For starters, STOP WITH THE REMAKES!
Yes, I know, everything is a rip off of something else, even Inception (2010) has been linked to a Scrooge McDuck comic, but there are endless stories to tell, just look at the documentaries next time you’re online or in a video store. Everyone has a story, there’s no need to retell the same stories over and over again, and do it worse each time.
Another area of improvement is distribution. Magnet seems to have a solid grasp on this, most of their titles are available for streaming at the same time (sometimes before) it’s released in theaters. Kevin Smith’s decision to take his 2011 film, Red State, on the road was a successful venture and he managed to release it simultaneously on DVD, Blu-ray, streaming, and satellite. More and more people aren’t going to the theater to see the next big movie.
Between high concession prices, the drive to and from the theater, braving the elements (especially in winter), dealing with ticket prices, noisy kids, people talking, texting, and chewing popcorn like animals, it’s all I can do to keep from losing my cool.
We live in a society that does everything from home, or the local coffee shop, and Hollywood is one of the last to jump on the bandwagon. They fought against TV and now they are dragging their feet when it comes to the Internet. I think films would see a dramatic increase in sales if they were released simultaneously in the theater, on video, and online.
This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of New Empress Magazine.