Formative Role of Video Games
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As a long time fan of computer games, I've always wondered how video games have reached this point in time, I wanted to know how Nintendo became Nintendo, how games went from the arcades to home consoles and how games changed from two dimensions to three dimensions. The following was originally planned to be purely a discussion on the development of the games industry however once this project began I soon realised that video games owe most of its early years and breakthrough development to other entertainment industries, particularly film. After much research on the topic I altered my discussions focus away from purely the games industry to the broader entertainment industry, mainly because it is very difficult to separate the two, both now owe each other so much, in video games early years it took much from the entertainment industry but in the last few years things have changed, revolutionary techniques are being developed by the game industry and now are being adapted by the film industry, in this dissertation I wanted to see video games long term effect on the entertainment industry and whether it has been one of a negative or positive effect and my predictions for the future of both mediums.
The Birth of the Computer Game
The modern video game has evolved much from its very humble and almost accidental beginning in 1958 when William Higinotham a nuclear physicist while working on a small analogue computer in the purpose of describing various curves on a cathode-ray tube noticed the curved and bouncing effect reminded him of tennis(Brookhaven, 2009). He altered the amplifiers of the balls motion so bounding space on the screen could be controlled by the turning knobs on the machine. Higinotham designed the game from first conception in two hours and it took him only a brief few hours over a few days to alter the existing technology. The budget for first game known only as "Tennis For Two" was almost zero as it was made for existing parts. Too think of a modern game been designed in two hours or completed in a few days is just incomprehensible, not only would it be almost guaranteed to be a terrible game but making it functional to the player would be a impossible task, and the budget would be another impassable road block. The current generation of video games if they are to be a success spend months in the design and concept phase and take anywhere from 16 months to over four years to finish and have a budget that matches Hollywood blockbusters.
The 2008 video game Grand Theft Auto IV(Rockstar, 2008) spent 6 years in development and the final expenses rose to over £100 million. However the developers perceived the risk of financial failure if the product did not sell as a necessary risk in order to live up to the fans expectations, this game was a sequel in a long line of a series known for breaking sales records and having a fan base like none other. This game however is not the exception either, many recent games have had budgets of over £100 million and spent years in production, these high expenses are expected to rise when every generation of consoles are releases not only because of the technology behind them but the players demand for more, including highly designed graphics, unique art design and realistic effects rendered to a quality of CGI films.
My research is discovering video's games effect on the entertainment industry but more specifically the film industry and the aspect of them competing against one another but also with the rare and generally unsuccessful case of the merger of film and games. When video games first began to sell successfully in the early 1970's film had already been established as the main attraction for visual entertainment with strings of great releases and new releases that broke viewer and financial records one after another, the 1970's seemed an unlikely time for another visual medium to develop however video game managed to do that, by the late 1970's video games seen the releases of many classic games such as Pong (Atari Inc, 1972), Asteroids (Atari Inc, 1979) and Space Invaders (Taito Corporation, 1978). At the time however these releases we're still nothing to be recognised by the critics of the entertainment industry, they seen them as nothing but toys, not to be taking seriously. These classic games didn't even make a mark on the film industry in regards to financial success, however this was primarily because the home console didn't exist yet and games could only be played in arcades where the owner of the arcades took all profits with only the initial cost of the machine ever to be the income of the early game designer. In the early 1980's arcades changes, they weren't now purely for the gaming youth, the non-gamer began to discover this alternate entertainment medium and it became a regular event for them to occasionally visit an arcade, this is when the time began known as the "Golden Years" particularly in the United States and Japan when teenagers and adults alike would enter the arcade and discover a game that would just entrap them, video games started to become a area to look into for potential designers as games beforehand where only created for the love of it but now as a designer you could now make a living out of designing games, this is mainly because the fans of the early games where mostly diehard fans where they would enter quarter after quarter to finish the game.
Brian Garside (2009) of RadicalHive Remembers "putting quarter after quarter, hour after hours" into arcade game, and it was for the same reasons as everyone else was there, a very simple attraction, The games we're very loud and very bright, and brought one thing most gamers wanted, instant gratification the more quarters you had the longer you had to play, the difficulty level was extreme, there was no lives* or saves* you just tried to get to the finish before you ran out of quarters, and if you did then you became an elite member of the gaming public because you got to put your name on the screen, where it could be seen every day by every gamer, that was the main goal of the early gamer, to say you finished an arcade game, this was something rare because of the difficulty*.
Arcades borrowed much from the film world in its early years including the cinema building layout itself, the general arcade includes, the games, popcorn machines, snack and hotdog bars and generally in the centre area would be pool tables, it represented a meeting place, the arcade became a place to hang out, friends would meet up at the arcade and not even play a game, it was almost a staging place, you would go there before heading to the movies or after a movie you would return there for a few minutes to let yourself lose, aside from the games the arcade became a place to just hang around and let loose.
The Home Console
It wasn't till the home console when games took a firm place in the entertainment industry, the development of the designed home console brought around games that were developed past the loud noises and ghastly lights, the home console brought around the era of the complex stories in games with gripping narratives, moving performances and of course the Pixelated hero*. Fairchild Channel F(Fairchild Semiconductor, 1976), a unknown games company who today if you mentioned them to a gamer most likely you would get a puzzled response and even in the early years of game development they where an unknown company however their games machine left a mark on the industry because they coined a phrase which is used by every single person in the games industry, "Console"*. Video games now had a place in the 1970's home but they still hadn't changed much form the arcade, bright lights and ghastly sounds where everywhere, game after game we're effectively the same but with a different name. This slur of games eventually lead to the great video games crash*of 1983-84 triggered by a non-ending market of low quality games and by far too many overpriced consoles, another involving factor was that the market was considered to be at full saturation, the critically slammed game of the successful film E.T.(Atari, Inc, 1982) was the breaking point, the rising popularity of the home computer(PC) and the personnel computer also was deemed to be part responsible for the crash particular with their aggressive advertising campaigns such as this scrupulous ad by Microsoft "Why buy your child a video game and distract them from school when you can buy them a home computer that will prepare them for college?"(Global Oneness, 2009).
This crash brought an abrupt end to the current generation of video games and almost crippled the new games industry particularly in north America, many games companies collapsed and with the few that survived none maintained any high level of success after the crash. It wasn't till the end of 1985 that the games industry started to recover and that was with the immediate success of the now legendary Nintendo Entertainment System(1985). The 8-bit* generation had begun with a bang with launch games consisting of ExciteBike (1985) and Super Mario Bros.( 1985), gamers could not resist but buy the NES even with doubts after the many years of terrible releases just preceding this new line up and generation. Aside from the games Nintendo also standardised many console features such as controller ports, gun controllers and the Quality seal of approval*. In the early 90's things started to heat up again in the games industry, Nintendo now had a fierce competitor in the industry, SEGA. SEGA (1990) released its Mega Drive, which they hailed as the first 16-bit gaming console and it proved that by displaying graphics which were unheard of at this time. But Nintendo hit back by releasing their Record breaking Super Nintendo Entertainment System(1990). This fierce competition between the two drove developers to become better designers and it was proved as much with hugely successful and critically acclaimed hits been released for each console, this home console war ended any chance of the arcades recovering, gamers had finalised there move from the arcades back to their homes, the home console had become the core choice by the games and also by the developer.
The 3D Generation
Video games where successful in their early years but they were never hugely successful, they never get anywhere near close to the popularity of the film industry nor did the game releases of films get anywhere closer and in fact generally sold much worse. Designers made a profit but it was only a sustaining profit, enough to keep the company going, pay the staff and develop future games but they just didn't have the financial backing of the film industry, games were rarely advertised and certainly didn't have any sort of vast marketing displays and if there even was a marketing team at all it would consist of very few people and have a simple budget as can be seen by the low quality of games advertisement in the 1980's, the advertisement stood close to what the game was, bright lights and loud noises. It wasn't till the 5th generation of gaming consoles or the 3d generation as its also known did games reach a level of popularity that could not quite yet match the film industries figures but certainly put a mark against it, their where many success stories but also many failures in this generation, it saw the fall of Atari, the 3DO, SEGA and the rise of Sony with the Playstation(1994).
Nintendo where the only existing company to the enter the 3D generation and continue to be successful. Not much changed with the Nintendo strategy and it didn't need to, they released once again hit after hit until the end of this generation when in 1995 the disc based Sony Playstation overtook the Nintendo 64(1996) in terms of sales and it began to build a strong fan base including taking a good portion of Nintendo's key market. The Playstation was the first home console to sell more than 100,000 million units worldwide, this is now the time the games industry started to be compared to the film industry in terms of sales and success. Aside from commercial success, the Playstation also changed the console development plan, the success of the disc was the final nail in the coffin on the old cartridge system previously used by Nintendo. The stability of the disc medium, cheap manufacturing expenses in using disc based games where the main reasons for its success. At the end of this generation SEGA fans had lost faith in their beloved console with few games being released on the console mainly because developers jumped ship to the more successful Nintendo and Sony and while there was still yet to be another SEGA console in the form of the SEGA Dreamcast(1999), this was the turning point in SEGA's decline and their eventual retreat from console development. Even with the great success of the Playstation, neither Nintendo or Sony ever seemed to publicly announce or display a challenge for financial success against the rest of the entertainment industry, advertisement still stayed low budget and was purely aimed at making existing gamers aware of future products rather than attracting new potential game players.
The Changing Generation
The following Generation displayed much of the same as the previous generation, The Sony Playstation 2(2000) was effectively the same as the first one just much more advanced with a few new features, the same can be said for the Nintendo GameCube(2001) except now Nintendo had adopted disc based technology. There was a new entry in the market place now, Microsoft seeing the potential of the games industry entered the market in 2001 with the Xbox. The Xbox didn't design its games or console any differently to Nintendo and Sony's consoles however it did add one thing, it is possible the most important new feature to games design since the 3D era took hold, the Xbox introduced online multiplayer through a service known as Xbox LIVE*. This new feature was the only thing that kept the console from complete failure as the games that accompanied the console where of a lower quality and Microsoft struggled to attract a strong fanbase, however though XBOX LIVE proved so successful that online multiplayer is a standard now for most modern games. While this was going on, in the background Nintendo where busy working with the handheld market, before now everyone considered this market purely for kids and only a gimmick at best, Nintendo wanted to change that and they did with the Game Boy Advance(2001). They did this by developing games of a standard of the home consoles and Marketing the device as a independent handheld console separate to that of the home consoles. Because of the new advanced graphics available to developers, a completely realistic game could be made but this lead to huge criticism of the games with releases of ultra graphic Mortal Kombat(Midway Games, multiple) and the portrayal of criminal behaviour seen in Grand Theft Auto series(Rockstar Games, Multiple). These controversial games aloud non-gaming public to become much more aware of the games industry, although this was potentially dangerous criticism against the games industry, it is seen as exactly what the games industry was looking for. Sony particularly began marketing mature games for mature audiences, with advertising campaigns aimed purely for the an age group of 18 and above.
The content in these games led to the ESRB and PEGI age rating system to inform parents that there are games available in the market that are unsuitable for their children. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time(Nintendo, 1998), Grand Theft Auto 3(, Rockstar Games, 2001), and Halo: Combat Evolved(Bungie, 2001) were the first game in the industry to be marketed in the way of a summer blockbuster, they all sold hugely successful and these games are seen by many as the turning point where games left the old mentality behind of being just for the arcade gamer and now was at a position to enter the next generation as a strong competitor to Hollywood, by the end of this generation in 2006 total film sales reached an estimated $16.6 billion in North America for the film industry compared to the games industries $13.5 Billion (Breckon, 2007). Entering the late 2000's, the still young games industry is nearly as valuable as over 100 year old film industry.
The 7th Generation seen many advancements, Blu-Ray disc technology, Massively multiplayer games(MMO's), High Definition technology and motion tracking as seen by the Nintendo Wii(2006). Microsofts Xbox 360 launched first into this generation in 2005 and it proved a success, aside from being first into this new generation it fully launched Xbox LIVE and multiplayer as a standard throughout the industry. The Xbox 360 now stands firmly second place in between Sony's Playstation 3(2006) and Nintendo's Wii in the console battle. It has a strong game to console attach rate*, with loyal fans and marketing team any Company would want, these factors will guarantee its success into the next console generation. The Sony Playstation 3 launched a full year after the Xbox 360 and some believe this to be the main reason it had poor launch figures as well as the fact that there were a limited supply of Blu-ray diodes for the consoles main feature. The console to date has still struggled to compete with its competition with many of its games selling poorly, Xbox's leading exclusive game Halo 3(2008) sold over 10 million copies as for Sony's PS3 most successful exclusive game Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots(2008) sold only a little over 4 million copies, however it has grounded itself, it is now financially a success and has guaranteed a place in the next generation line up. Nintendo on the other hand are on a completely different level compared to its rivals, it sales have been record breaking since its launch two weeks after the PS3. The Wii has sold almost more than both the Xbox 360 and PS3 combined with current sales figures at 52.29 Million units sold for the Nintendo Wii, 31.30 Million units sold for the Xbox 360 and 23.16 Million units sold for the PS3 (VGchartz, 2009).
The key to the success of the Wii is the widening of the demographics, Nintendo completely changed their approach to selling and developing games, in previous generation Nintendo only developed games for the hardcore gamer(strict loyal fan) but now they are developing for a mixture of hardcore games and casual games(general public). Nintendo's main aim for the Wii was not to beat its rivals but to get new people playing games, Satoru Iwata stated in(2006) at a Press conference in Tokyo that "we're not thinking about fighting Sony, but about how many people we can get to play games.". This is reflected in Nintendo's Advertisement campaigns throughout the world, Nintendo dramatically changed their method of advertising to new much more successful methods such as featuring celebrities and even the advertisement developed by academy award winning directors. Their audience grew hugely with this advertising strategy including a varied assortment of game players including, children, adults and grandparents, their campaign is aimed at people of all ages. The success of these ads can be seen in the wide audience, a 103 year old pensioner was reported to be regularly playing the Wii, the Queen of England is was even reported to have a Nintendo Wii(Rousewell, 2008). With the games industry going from strength to strength it is hard not to see the games industries eventual overtaking of the film industry as the leading section of the entertainment industry. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillermot (2007) expects the games industry to grow an additional 50% in the next four year, casual gaming and the newly introduced in-game advertisement are expected to be the key factors to gaming's take over. The gaming industry is also growing in other parts of the world, The Asian market alone is expected to reach $28.8 billion in sales by 2011 with a total sales for the games industry at $65(Breckon, 2007). By then the film industry is only predicted to grow to a total sales of $25.8 billion in sales, less than half of the predicted games sales. However High definition is now becoming a standard in the film industry as well as the re-introduction 3D films, both advancements could bring a new lease of life to the film industry, it can also be considered that at €60 a game compared to the film industries €10 cinema admission or €25-€40 for DVD/Blu-ray income might make up impressive figures however as for the individual customer using each medium the actual numbers of people still lean greatly towards the film industry. It could be questioned why are they seen as competition and not simply compared as separate mediums in the entertainment industry, many game adaptations of films and vice versa have been released mostly with only slight success but all have been critically slammed, ever year the two industries become closer and closer and with that will be massive financial gain, James Cameron's Avatar: The Game(Ubisoft, 2009) and film (Cameron, 2009) is seen as the first step towards bringing these two entertainment industries together.
Chapter 2: Literature review
What is a game?
This is a very common question and it is a very important one, I wish to make it clear that the great success of video games in the last few years have mainly due to the changes behind in the design room and in the studios not just in the way games are now being marketed, the general games design theory is seen as a factor in the success. Defining what a game is or a theory behind it is one that you can spend a great deal of time arguing over and even with a set of results it still is a open question. The definition will in general influence how one decides to design a game, so it is critical when designing a game that you completely understand the purpose for it. There are multiple ways we could define a game, with varying ranges of features. Greg Costikyan (1994) states "A game is a form of art in which participants, teamed players, make decisions in order to manage resources through game tokens in the pursuit of a goal". This meaning is questionable, it may of defined what a game was back in the early years but because of the constant technology advancements if a designer was to define what a game was it would be more like, a game is a form of art in which participants single or multiple make decisions according to the narrative design in order to resolve game world situations and finish the game as the ultimate goal, this would be my definition of defining the modern computer game.
The essential problem with defining a game is that depending on the era a definition will make sense in one decade but not the next because of the rapid growth of the gaming medium. This rapid growth is changing the industry, MIT Professor Henry Jenkins(2008) stated that "video games have converged different entertainment platforms that allowed producers of these content to exercise new ways of stretching the viability of their intellectual properties". A single general theory only works when one looks at a genre of game type or who the player of the game will be, at the core reasoning for games, they only exist to be played, it is an interactive medium the only kind which is visual, audibly, interactive and within that a multiplayer component which allows many people to play at once and with the internet the numbers are almost infinite depending on the game. As with the genre and medium some are considered entertaining and some are considered a task, challenge is however a general theme with games design. As with every industry, once games design was established as a valuable medium, competition quickly arose as seen at Quakecon(Nok, 2009) and in a new medium players want quickly to become the best at it or be the first to finish it, to design a game to suit this want is a challenge and that is the general reason a games design theory was sought after in early game development. As the basis of games design is that every game or most games have a beginning, middle and an end, the game starts and ends at your own discretion and with a set of rules for you to manipulate or use to at your means. Playing the game is down to the player, but if there is a desire to understand games and game design, we must first clearly establish the purpose of it. We must determine the characteristics of all games, but discovering that outlines and establish a set of attribute for each game genre rather than what characterised games as a whole. Hoffman (2008) believes that outside of computer games, playing a game in general is an important part of life. I wish to discover does game design need a theory? Other medium generally have some sort of theory behind them but they are much more closely related in their genres as game design is very diverse and has a interactive aspect in design and game playing, what people want, and the level of scale and longevity are maybe too diverse for a game design theory to exist.
Changes in games design: For the Better or worse?
Defining games design is still widely regarded as a difficult task, what a game is though differs constantly and when it enters production depending on the type of game the design methods behind it are much different from a racing game to a action game. That is the first problem, it is complex to place the games design program in any one meaning. The actual study of engine design, physics and application of games design is much more closely connected to mathematics rather than traditional design practices, if this study was literally taken into practice than it would be a great oversight, designing a game using only mathematics and programmers instead of a blend with designers would only lead to failure. Ideally, a games design studio should be as interdisciplined as any other large field, it should consist of, programmers, designers, artists and engineers. Richard Rouse III(2005) states that "the game design is what determines the form of the gameplay", however that is not always so as seen by top-down or bottom-up design*. The features set in game design determines what choices players will be able to make in the game-world and what consequences those choices will have on the rest of the game.
Bernd Kreimeier(2002) states that "Games design like any other profession requires a means to document, discuss and plan". In the last few years with the advent of the growing online design community, a designer could refer to the growing online library of previously released games for general ideas and quick inspiration. In the early days of games design, designers generally referred to board games for their inspiration as there was no other means to compare work, without some sort of comparison it would of been very risky to release a game without any sort of knowledge of whether a similar product has been successful in the past. Hoffman (2008) believes that the main problem with game design is deciding where to place it, creating a game through a subset of sociology or a dedicated studio and these decisions are what make defining a game so complex. However while knowledge about games has grown rapidly, it could be said even more so than any other media industry, little progress has been made to document individual experiences to interweave into design practices and theories. Kreimeier (2002) states that "on the base line of design theory, games design needs a related library to name the modelling assets been created, designing and a set of rules to express how these design techniques fit together, a case for design patterns could exist".
Help from Hollywood?
Games design is uniquely many thing, but at the basis of design it comes down to a few little things, coming up with the initial idea through thought and discussing, the idea to see it is not only a workable product but is it actually a good idea and from that point heavily expanding on the original idea until any team of designers could implement the design and achieve a expected result. Evidently if that was all designers had to go on it was be extremely difficult for anything to be created. Since the beginning of games design, games designers have worked around these initial problems by relying on design techniques and theories adapted from other media such as film and storytelling. Noah Falstein (1997) writes that part of the problem with encounters of people from Hollywood was their lack of respect. This problem though has been rid away with over the years but it was a huge problem back in the 1970's and 1980's when young game companies searched for aid in development from Hollywood studios but received little help. Games are not only a interactive medium but they are a visual medium and game designers have been increasingly relying on design techniques developed from film such as motion capture however this is not to be taken as a side of weakness from game designer and should not question that games are the same as film but the film practices are investigated in an effort to identify methods which are suited in favour of games. Nevertheless this was not always enough, games design theories started to develop solely to do with games and without influence from other medium, Kreimeier (2002) also believes that games as an individual medium needs its own practices and if borrowed techniques were enough then there be no need to develop any practices specific to games design theories. These collective theories are individual but there has been much discussion on them and it could be probable that these individual theories could be developed into one universal games design theory although the most likely result would be a flawed design theory.
The open use of gaming terms promotes an over perceived meaning of our own belief of what games are, The academic public overly ignore the uniquely and complexity of game design. Junior designers whose own skill are limited generally embark upon designing games with no further research than their own experience as game players, this methodology is sure to fail, the desire to success, what people in reality like to play can be much different than what the designer actually likes, this is unfortunately a common problem in traditional game design, this is a problem Pederson (2003) states as critical for lead game designers. Those who overrate their own understanding will undercut their own potential from learning and further more it will lead to the same result as failure. Ambiguity and ambiguity of play are a important aspect of design brought up by Smith (1997), applying the principle and concepts to gaming have watered down the original medium and meanings, there is no longer a clear focus to the ideology of game design we desire to understand. This watered effect is creating genres, levels of design, innovativeness, expenses and lastly the technology are effecting this medium more than any other, price ranges in not only the technology but the actual developing of the game can be astronomical, the latest version of Grand Theft Auto(Rockstar Games, 2008) a sandbox* style game cost over $100 million to design and develop included over 1,000 members of staff and took of three years to finish(Linde, 2008). If you we're to look for game design theory in this game, after much search you would result with a unanswered question, putting aside the budget and expenses to develop this game the sure scale of this project is enough to put a stop to the idea of needing or there ever existing an underlying games design theory. The style of game for the GTA series is not alone, other genre such as first person shooters(FPS), action based and role playing games(RPG) are also put in this bracket, it would be hard pressed to find a game theory where each of these genres could fit in, meet there goals and be overall a success.
A Common Design Theory?
There are a few genres of games where there is potentially a underlying game design theory that could be developed for any new game yet to be developed and this could exist in the racing genre, it is this genre where the same practices of design are repeated for each game no matter the individual style of the game, if its bikes, cars, formula 1 or truck racing it all has the same design principles behind it, and that is create a race track, create a vehicle, create a set of static rules and put it all together to create your racing game, it's not as simple to design as it is put but the ground principle are there to support the idea that there could be a game design theory for the racing genre, the same could also apply for sports games however Pederson (2003) believes that this simulation brings an unbalance to the practice of game design and I can't honestly agree more with this statement, simulation based games should not be considered games design mainly because there is little design process behind it, they follow real world experiences to exact points which leave little for the designer to add or take. After much deliberation I was convinced that there really isn't an overall game design theory for the entire industry of game design but there are similarities for each genre of game. Rouse III (2005) states that,
"Every medium has a unique voice with which it can speak, and it is the responsibility of the user of a medium to find that voice. Computer games have a voice that I firmly believe to be as strong as that available in any other media. Computer games are a relatively young form when compared with the likes of the printed word, music, the visual arts, or the theatre, and I think this currently works against the likelihood of computer games truly finding their most powerful voice."
And continues to further state,
"This can come in both the more theoretical form of questioning why it is that players play games, but also in the entirely more practical form of how to most effectively work with playtesters. To have any chance of producing a great game, the game designer must understand both the theoretical aspects and the practical necessities of game design."
Aside from separating the genres it is apparent that without question there cannot be a game design theory for any game that has a complex story to it or has a large amount of character development, if a universal game design theory was to be set in place then there would just be repeat patterns and a story of any sort of scale or complexity could just never be developed and be successful in the eye of the game player and critics alike. Kreimeier (2002) believes patterns would bring familiarity to the game player which can only harm the games design further more turn them off the game.
Patterns rule out many genres of game that could have a game design theory. FPS's, RPG's, action based, Adventure and strategy games are instantly excluded from the game design theory, they all have story and character development something that is individual to each game and therefore a game design theory can't be created for each genre, Pederson (2003) believes that these genres fall out of existing theories as they are non-linear with control during the game being mainly up to the game player rather than the game designer. That is to say, this is for a well developed game with a large budget, a smaller game of similar scale with little story or character development could have a theory behind it but in today's gaming market game players are very meticulous about story and the level of detail in the story, something of a lower par would never sell to mass market, a story based game developed on a game theory would be below standard and would be expected to fail in every aspect.
Simulation as Hybrid design?
Outside of story based game is the simulation game, a game type that simulated real life skills and abilities such as flying a jet aircraft with every complex detail as seen in Microsoft's Flight Simulator X(Microsoft Game Studio, 2006) and Microsoft's Train Simulator(Kuju Entertainment, 2001), it is perhaps the only game genre that truly needs nothing, by that I mean there is no inspiration needed, there is no innovation needed, there is no added design needed except for what the game is representing. Perhaps this blank genre is the only genre that can fit in the game design theory, it follows the same pattern no matter the game and it will always fallow the same pattern, it is a very different genre, there is no traditional game design features, there is not beginning, middle or end, no complex story or narrative design, it is strictly realistic copying every detail from the real life experience it is copying, this type of game can be seen to train and educate, it provides skills and knowledge that could be used outside of the game world, however the problem with this type of game is, its starts to lose the idea of what a game is? It becomes much less a game and much more a learning tool. Pilots are trained on software created for game players use but only for simulation, Pederson (2003) discusses that simulation games are so accurate that the game players hours spent on these games can be officially logged as training hours for pilots to earn their flying licence. After playing they leave the game player in a different state than a traditional game, it is a learning genre, the only genre seen to have intellectual properties.
The relevance of this though is different for each game of this genre and is the only aspect that plays a role on game design. The complexity of this game tends to push the gameplay level out of the players consideration, this creates a slower system of feedback and A uneasy loop system, once again taking away from the rest of the game genre's, with a loop system in place there can't be a beginning, middle or end and it doesn't fit the wants of the game player or the game designer. The next question that could be asked, is the simulator genre really a game? or is it its own medium? or is it something separate to the game medium. Elliot Maise (2001) states "You can have a game that's not a simulation and a simulation that's not a game". Game design and playing games have a few features that define what a game is, they must have a structure, story a narrative and emergent properties, the simulator genre fits none of these and yet it's the only genre that could be placed in a game design theory. I believe from this point I will consider that the simulator genre should be still placed in the game industry but should have altered meaning and genre to it, I would call it a hybrid game, it is not quite a game or not individual enough to be placed in its own medium.
Enriching Game Design
Game developers and academics have been since the birth of games reluctant to work together out of game developers ignorant wish to create a game that they want to make and academics general resentment for what gaming stands for. The reason this is changing as seen with the writers guild of America accepting games into the field is down to how effective game designers have become at perfecting their craft(Kuchera, 2007). Hoffman (2008) states that modern game design is a based on crucial planning, management in design and when academics are introduced to the structure it can only end it a superior designed game. Game designers have no defined set of common terms in communication, discussions of game design and generally end up altering off topic as there is no set pattern for designing a game, the risk of using fixed theories is too much for any big budget game, in the early years of game design there was always the same, a beginning a middle and a end and besides that there was very little to separate most games aside from generally colours and structure, but now there is so much more and it is because game are not a new medium anymore game players won't just except anything because it's a new medium, they want more.
Game developers are now instead of restricting themselves to members of their own team are expanding not only just outside of their studio but outside of the medium, game developers are hiring professional writers of comic and film with very reputable backgrounds. There cannot be a general theory for game design when games are expanding so much and that is the key to why there can't be a game design theory in current game design, games are maturing now they are no more just "button bashers"* or levels of "run'n'gun"* they have developed stories, a narrative context, complete interactivity and the creation of immersiveness. With games like Bioshock(2K Games, 2007), mass effect(BioWare, 2007) and portal(Valve, 2008) the first games to be recognised by the writers guild of America, and because of that, the writers guild of America created a new award for the game design industry which was added to the writers guild of Americas yearly awards. The gaming industry has grown out of the basement and is now a fully fledged successful industry. This is why I based my literature review on games design, because I believe it is the key aspect for why the games industry has become such a success in recent years, without these changes in design practices, the modern games industry would just not be the same. With every year of development games are taking one step closer to film in terms of financial success but also in customer numbers. Eventually there will be a time I believe when these two mediums, film and games will become a single industry separated in a series of genre industries such as seen by the individual types of genre in current film and game industry.
Chapter 3: Methodology
What I hoped to achieve with my research question was a clear understanding of where games and film are in current times, to discover are they on the same level in terms of not only financial success but also in how people viewed each industry, to find out if games have reached a point where the everyday person knows about them, whether they would ever want to play them, purchase them and if they did would they prefare to play a game or prefare to watch a film. If this research question took place a decade ago the results would be undoubtedly in favour of film but now it can be considered that games have caught up with film. I wanted to discover how much games have drawn the line closer in peoples opinion or have games any effect at all on their choice on entertainment, not only that but also to gather information on how they view the two mediums as individual forms of entertainment separate from each other. Although the results will have some information on film the results in which I am primarily seeking is much more to do with people's perception and opinions on video games.
The means in which I gathered information on this question was certainly one based on a qualitative methodology, I wanted my results to be based on emotion, opinion and perception not one of figures or graphs. My question is on what effect has video games had on the entertainment industry?, Although you could view that from purely a financial viewpoint and end up with quantitative data, it is not the type of data would suit this question neither do I believe it could be answered by the general public, I specifically wanted to discover what we're peoples opinion of the video games industry and how much it has changed in recent years and that can only be achieved through Qualitative methods.
In order to gather my results I structured two questions to be answered, both questions where questions of opinion and thought, they were set up in order to receive a paragraph length answer, they were structured in such a way in order to get people thinking and stay away from the simple yes or no answer, if a collecting of yes and no answers were received it would of been a disaster towards my data collection on the subject. However I didn't want the questions to seem daunting to the person therefore the questions where kept short and in plain English. The two questions are,
What effect do you think video games has had on the film industry?
Which would you prefer, to play a video game or watch a film? And why?
For the question I was trying to answer, these two questions I believe certainly provided enough data in order to come to a point where I had answered my question thoroughly. I choose two questions for my research for a few reasons, mainly because these two questions would display enough information to answer my question but also because of the time schedule, if a structures ten question strong long questionnaire had been designed I believe there would be no way I could analyse the answer thoroughly enough to get any sort of appropriate information and the answers received from the participants would be most likely rushed and not thought out.
The two questions we're typed and then printed out, I asked friends and family to fill out the questions because they are a good mix of regular game players/film fans and non-game players/film fans but also because I wanted to get the opinion from people who were not experts in the industry or interested in deep discussion and purely played games or watched films for the enjoyment of it and to the non-game players or film fans as to why they did not. However I didn't believe that was thorough enough so I also posted these two questions on a number of popular game website forums and a popular film website forums to receive a varied amount of data, these particular forums provided users who were very knowledgeable in the games and film industry but also people who were just fans of games and films and enjoyed discussing either of the two. I asked friends and family to answer the two questions there and then, and to do it as quickly as possible, I believe there honest answer would come out immediately rather than if I had given them a lengthy amount of time to think about it, there would be a chance that the answer they submitted was over thought and less likely to be there honest opinion. I left the two questions posted on the forums for three weeks, by then I had gathered enough information in order to formalise a clear answer. I believe my friends and family and the forum users certainly provided enough information for me to be able to answer the question with a high degree of accuracy.
Represents a glossary entry
Chapter 4: Findings
After receiving the resulting answers, the following information is all relevant points raised by the two questions. All information has been summarised and arranged according to the branch sections of the people who filled out the questions, such as predominantly film or game fans and people who are neither.(All quoted answers are fully available in the Appendix)
Fans Of Film
After much analysis from the responses to the questions it was clear that there where many themes present throughout the responses. There were two themes in particular that appeared throughout each response. Each person clearly agreed with the fact that games brought in huge revenue towards any given film in terms of their tie-ins with the film, the games film tie-in of Spiderman 2(Raimi, 2004 & Treyarch, 2004) was brought up many times, they thought it was the first successful moment when both games and film where both advertised in the same space, one particular person had discussed it was the first time he had seen this kind of advertising used, such as go see the film than purchase the game. Many others called this form of entertainment a package instead of two separate products. The James Bond series (Foster, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2008) was also brought up multiple times, it was mentioned that it was only clever business to bring games into the scene, there is the revenue earnings from the film, merchandise, the released DVD and then there was the addition of the game, it was only a matter of time before games where brought in as part of the entertainment package. The most current theme throughout the responses was that the majority of new release movies particularly action movies will see a game releases alongside them to broaden the scope of revenue.
Question two had similar responses and themes throughout as question one, there was one particular theme of responses that was in the majority of responses and that was there preference towards viewing a film over playing a video game. The main reason for this was because they thought that games had too many limitations, some of the most prominent limitations mentioned where the fact that there were three consoles too choose from the Sony PS3, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii, they disliked the idea of having to purchase all three consoles to fully experience everything you can from video games as for in film you only need one piece of equipment, the DVD player or the Blu-ray player. The little attachment and expenditure was motioned multiple times as well, the fact that you can at a cheap price go to the local cinema to view a film, enjoy the film and return home is something that can't be done on video games. Mentioned several times was the fact that they just didn't think they could be immersed in the video game world like they could at the cinema, they only believed that would be possible with virtual reality games. One particular person "ANewKindOfNeo" when discussing games mentioned that he loved the idea of games and film becoming one, he said he was "waiting for the day that films become virtual where you are immersed in the actual surroundings of the film rather than just watching it on a 2D screen with surround sound.".
To summarise, the main reoccurring themes among the sets of answers where that they preferred films over games, mainly because of price and the current limitations of technology in the games industry, they all agreed on the fact that they would like to see a future time when games and film came together to create a cinema/game world.
Fans Of Games
Similar to the film fans there were many noticeable themes present throughout the responses, however there were many more individual opinions from the game fans than there were from the film fans. A relevant theme present to question one was that they didn't believe that games yet had a huge impact on the film industry. They carried on to say however that they didn't mean they don't have an impact, they just don't think it's as big as a impact as what we'll see in a future years. They said it is clearly noticeable that we are seeing more and more films being turned into games, however they believed that wasn't necessarily a positive remark on things because the vast majority of games based on films are terrible. One particular person "VaeVictus" discussed the idea that there won't be a great game based on a film until the time is when "decent directors begin taking the medium as art and realize there are some great stories being told in games, then we'll see the effect". He further went on to mention a few of the most prominent games out there such as Mass Effect( Bioware, 2007) and Legacy of Kain(Crystal Dynamics, 2002) as games that have solid material to work with but only if the right people where there to do the work. Many people brought up the fact that Stephen Spielberg and James Cameron both spoke at this year's E3(Electronic Entertainment Expo) which is a games event for displaying new and future releases. However it was brought up by "Ciáron Costigan" that he believes the games industry have exceeded in what film have been trying for years and that is that films have always tried to capture you in the moment and bring you into the film. He further when on to say with the extreme detail of the story and graphics in modern games that you are basically in an interactive film. Many of the responses received discussed that they believe the main reason games have failed as movies was because they take the interactive part out which is what made you love games in the first place therefore leaving you with less feeling than you would get if you had played the game. The most common theme brought up thought was that the huge amounts of money that is being brought in from the games industry is just too much for film producers to ignore.
From the responses to question two, immediately it was clear that all answers where in favour of games, each single response stated that they would take a triple A(AAA) game to play over the viewing of a blockbuster film any day. The main reasons towards this answer were due to the fact that at most you only get three hours of entertainment from a film as for a game once you finish the single player aspect there is always the multiplayer which can potential go on for hundreds of hours. One particular person mentioned that he had played gears of war 2 "Magical Super P" in collective hours for over two months. Many mentioned the fact you can play with your friends online, that you can make friends while playing games online, that there is competition and all these factors result in making the gaming experience much more interesting. Many discussed that they preferred games for the immersing factor however they did mention that the particular game needed a developed character and criticises that fact that if this does not happen then it generally becomes static and loses its immersing factor. Many people discussed that a small part of the reason for preferring games over film was that they disliked going to the cinema where is costs a large amount of money to view the film and then not enjoy it because you are generally surrounded by loud, obnoxious, disrespectful people, they stated they prefer to spend their money on something that continues to reward there expenditure as for there was little film did that made them want to return. Mentioned several times was the statement that they though Hollywood had ran out of good ideas and directors, they stated why would they go to see slews of remakes and re-imagines when they can purchase a games and enjoy it in the comfort and safety of their home. However there were a few people who stated that they would be undecided on which they would prefer, it really depended on the type of film or game, "Magical Super P" stated simply that "I ain't playing crap and I ain't watching it either". The most prominent theme was the immersion that could be created in games was just something that could not be re-created in film, the control you have over a games was something that they believes was the influencing factor in preferring games over film
Fans of Entertainment
Generally the responses I received from people who enjoyed all sorts of entertainment, there answers where nearly all undecided on the matter, they all stated cases for and against similar to the responses stated above, In response to question one, they didn't really think games had a negative or positive effect on the film industry. They seen the positive effects such as bringing the mediums together to create greater sources of entertainment for the customer. The negatives generally revolved around the fact that they believed the two industries would take advantage of this effect and bring the two mediums together based of the increased revenue rather than for creating an enjoyable experience for the customer. Overall currently they see the joining of the two industries as been beneficial to the viewing public.
The responses too question two were also similar to both sections above, they all stated that it really depended on the film and game in discussion, predominantly it was stated though that if they were trying to relax the only option would be film, the main reason for this was that believes the linearity of the films created a relaxing atmosphere. Several stated that if they wanted to truly enjoy themselves and be engaged in the moment that they would choose games, they stated that games can engage you far beyond what a film can do. However they did state this factor only appeared in certain games, they mentioned that sports games has a drawback on games enjoyment because you need an outside knowledge to understand and enjoy the game. The main theme throughout was that for games they disliked the time and investment needed if you truly wanted to get immersed in the world as for film all you had to do was insert a DVD and view the film.
Chapter 5: Discussion
After much analysis of the responses I received, it was clear to me that there where a hugely varied amount of opinions on the topic, nearly every single person seemed to have a very different answer to the next person, however there where many similarities present throughout the answers particularity in each section of people, the film fans leaned firmly in the direction of film in both questions, stating they would generally never play a game and only ever even think about it was if the two mediums became one. The pricing was also a huge factor for the film fans. However I was surprised about how little they really knew about the games industry, I got the impression that none seemed to have really sat down with a game and just tried to enjoy it, some of the critical responses seemed very blind and ignorant on the matter of enjoying a game. However they generally discussed the fact that the bridging on the two would most likely happen and for similar reasons as well, the financial gain would be just too much for producers of film and game to ignore.
Surprising I discovered the game fans were much more open to discussing both mediums, instead of just stating they would always prefer games they stated that if the right film came along they could easily see themselves putting the controller and game away and put on a DVD or head to the cinema. Many of them also agreed on the statement that they didn't believe games have had an effect on the film industry yet, but certainly would in the future, James Cameron's Avatar was a film/game that was brought up numerous times as the first time that these two mediums would be one in the same. There was a clear theme throughout why they would prefer games over films and that was not just what the game was but what the game offered in immersion and replayability. It was repeatedly mentioned that they would choose games every time because of the fact they can play online with friends, even make new friends and compete against one another. Because of this common theme it is easy believe this is the main reason for video games success in the latest years and It can be judged that this is the kind of thing film has been looking to create for years, the after experience, the thing that brings you back again and again.
The final group that where neither strongly a fan of film or games, they too didn't seem to think games had any huge effect on the film industry at all, they believed there was a chance for this is the future however it is unlikely to happen until technology such as virtual reality appears as a standard in the industry. I honestly couldn't agree less with this statement mainly because I think you can see the effect video games are having on the film industry in many places, the fact there are graphic only scenes in films is based on games technology, newer film are being designed for use with viewing in 3D to try to create a sense of immersion, something that many believe you can only get in games. When you see Stephen Spielberg and James Cameron attending and speaking at gaming only events, you can't say games are not having an effect on the film industry when the top directors and producers in the industry are expanding their divisions into the games industry.
When responding to the second question, they answered similar to the game fans purely it just really depended on the game and the film offered and not only that but the mood they were in at the time, this statement was a repeating factor common through this section of answers, they noted that they really had to be in a particular mood to play a game as for they could watch a film at any stage. I do agree with this, there are types of games that need your full attention and can only be played when you are fully prepared for it however I don't necessarily agree with the statement on film, most films out there need some sort of effort in watching them, there are allot of films out there that require you to pay complete attention otherwise you won't "get" the film. They discussed price was a important issue as well for deciding on the two, they mentioned a film being much cheaper than the two but I must state purchasing a game is much more of an investment, it is something that you will always have and can always return to and enjoy, however once that film is over at the cinema, it is over you have to spend again and the cinema scene is readily getting over priced, a trip to the cinema no long just entails viewing the film. Although if the person has patience purchasing the future release on DVD is a much cheaper option. Taken as a whole I believe the film industry is great for a quick thrill or enjoying the moment and a video game can provides hours of fun and immersion, a combination of the two seems like a perfect experience and a likely future for both industries.
Chapter 6: Conclusion
Clearly significant alternatives have emerged; games have hit their point of maturity in terms of development subsequently generating a huge following. The outside critical world is still not quite set on accepting them as an art form or as a higher form of entertainment. A higher form refers to the critical and educated world still classifying games as a minority in comparison to mainstream entertainment types. A constant contradiction remains in the form of reprisals upon the occurrence of in-game violence while films cater for such themes. The film industry is going through a similar change, it is not trying to fight off the games industry instead it is trying to bring the two together. The high levels of computer generated content in many films and particularly as seen in Avatar, is the first indication that the two industries are combining into an acceptable entertainment resource. It is clear that games have an effect on film and the surrounding entertainment industry. The revenue alone is sufficient for the giants of the film industry to take notice but not only is this a great moment for the consuming public, instead of having a single form of entertainment, entertainment is now appearing as a multi-product package, which can suit all your needs such as your short term entertainment in the trip to the cinema but also your long term by returning home with the game of the film and boast many more hours of entertainment. This is a step forward to bringing ultimate immersion to the consumer.
Video games are now on the brink of being excepted as a higher form of entertainment by many of the strongest critics in the entertainment industry and this will have an strong effect on how things pan out for the two industries, nevertheless the leading game studios may decide they don't want a merger of any sorts to happen and games could stay completely separate as a medium except for the odd film to game adaptation. At present this appears to be the current decision by many studios in the games industry. From my research it is apparent that people don't think games have had a huge effect on the entertainment industry though they do believe that the future of the visual entertainment industry will certainly be a combination of the two. Games as an individual medium will certainly push forward in breaking new grounds, they will continue to grab more and more of the market share from other mediums and that is being done with constant adaptations in games design techniques and very clever forms of advertisement. The end result that I conclude from this is that evidently videos games have had an effect of the entertainment industry, this effect is primarily seen with graphic and sound technology being adapted for the film industry. The success of Avatar will have a strong influence on how the future of the two mediums pen out, if the film fails financially and with the audience and critics than it is most likely that games and film will stay as separate mediums until further down the development line until another studio attempts to combine the two, I believe the two industries will always stay as two industries but a combination of them is becoming a much more inevitable, the resulting effect will not only be step forward for the two industries but also for the every consumer of the
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