Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
06 December 2007
Jordan Mechner tells you why movies and games are different
Jordan Mechner is one of my favorite game designers. No fewer than three of his games are classics in my life: Karateka, Prince of Persia, and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. I think he also did The Last Express which I never played -- ask Bob about that one.

Anyway, I thought this was a great answer in Gamasutra's Q&A with Mechner:
What are the differences between writing for a video game and writing for a film? How closely does the movie storyline correspond to the games?

If you summarize the movie in one sentence, it sounds identical to the first Sands of Time videogame, but scene by scene it's actually completely different. It has to be, because games and film are such different mediums.

On the surface they're deceptively similar -- you can watch five minutes of an action-adventure videogame and think "this could be a movie," or vice-versa -- but structurally the requirements are totally different.

Here's one example: The game kicks off with a cataclysm that basically destroys the world and turns all living creatures except for the three main characters into raging, murderous sand monsters. That was a great setup for the gameplay we had, which was "acrobatic Persian survival horror."

But if you put that setup in a film, it would be a "B" movie, and that's not the kind of movie Prince of Persia should be. Our model is classic epic, swashbuckling action-adventure movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Zorro, and Thief of Baghdad, with humor and romance and full of memorable characters. You can't get there if you turn everybody into sand monsters on page fifteen.
He goes on to dodge a question about future games. I hope that's a sign he's going to be back doing a game soon.

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--Matt Matthews at 11:34
Comment [ 3 ]

Comments on this post:

I see what he is saying, but doesn't that explain why games are still regarded as garbage even now. We keep bring up the sand monsters on page 15!

It seems to me if Roger Ebert can hold the line by saying a movie that has a crap story is crap despite brilliant cinematography; then game reviewers should feel the obligation to say, "You know what this Metal Gear story is garbage. So despite the nice parts of the game and the fact it plays well I'll knock off three points for the story." If just 1/4 of the reviewers did that to some games, guess what? No sand monsters on pg 15 would show up in many games because story in games would not be allowed to take such a back seat. And guess what we wouldn't miss those clichés either.

And, if you think reviwers are unlikley to do that then I say it has already started. Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw seems to be making a big splash pointing out how ridiculous game stories are right now.

By Blogger MonkeyKing1969, at 06 December, 2007 16:22  

It's a double edged sword really. Too much story can ruin a game. I don't want cut scenes constantly destroy whatever momentum I might have going *cough* TR:Legend*cough*--particularly with QTE events (GOW is the exception here.)

The truth is you have to have sand monsters on page fifteen in a game like POP, because sand monster *are* the game. The controller in your hand is what keeps it from being a movie. The controller is horribly important.

As short as games are now, I'd feel rather ripped if I spent the first fifteen minutes watching cutscene after cutscene (possibly with QTEs!) establishing a fantastic story while the controller sits idle.

I think allowances must be made for the actual medium. Games are games and therefore cannot tell a story in the same manner as a movie.

A summary of the Onimusha movie script has been posted. Quite a bit has been added because while cutting down demons in every room is a good time in a game, it would not be a very good movie.

By Blogger LisaB, at 07 December, 2007 12:35  

I think the only reason the sand monsters are there at all is so that you not killing people, even virtually in that case of a game. We're not fighting Russians! No; we're fighting insects who are a soulless communist collective.

Either way it still somewhat rotten story telling, unless it is handled very carefully. Just once I’d like to pay the soulless communist insects battling the irrational human democrats without it being a complete farce.

By Blogger MonkeyKing1969, at 07 December, 2007 15:14  

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