Levels and Episodes in TV/Game/Film Convergence

Jonathan Gray's picture

I’m spending more time these days thinking about (and, once school ends, I hope, playing) licensed videogames, as I’m fascinated with how a narrative world from film or television deals with the challenges and promises of a move into game space.

Part of this fascination, though, lies in how film and television producers may be taking games more seriously, and making them matter. Along those lines, consider the following:

(1) I was pointed towards this New Yorker review of Clash of the Titans by Anthony Lane. Though the context makes the comment reek of game-hating snark, there’s still this interesting comment near the end:

what is at stake here is not an enlightening quest, or a Homeric journey, but a series of levels, each one tougher than the last. That is why I am, in all honesty, reviewing “Clash of the Titans” three months too soon. On July 10th, it will be released on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, and only then, I feel, will it truly come into its own.

(2) And finally, with the new Doctor Who under way in the UK, we have news of four interactive games that the BBC commissioned to add to the story, and this intriguing quote from executive producer and BBC Wales’ head of drama, Piers Wenger:

There aren’t 13 episodes of ‘Doctor Who’ this year, there are 17–four of which are interactive.

(3) And yet, at the SCMS super-panel on transmedia with Lost’s Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, The Alchemist’s Mark Warshaw, Middleman creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Heroes’ Tim Kring, and Ghost Whisperer’s Kim Moses, in response to a question about whether we’ll ever see the transmedia “matter” to the story in a central way, Grillo-Marxuach noted that he’d want to punch any writer in the face if that writer expected him to see transmedia before or in addition to consuming the text at the mothership. Lindelof later said that perhaps the panel simply couldn’t envision an entity that could pull this trick off yet, but he expressed hope that someone would one day work it out.

So the question remains – can a game be an important part of the story, and if not why not? I’m inclined to think the answer can be found wherever the money trail goes. I’m not surprised to hear someone creating for the non-commercial BBC suggesting that the games might provide yet more sites for the story, entirely legitimate and central, since the BBC doesn’t particularly need viewers to go back to the “mothership” of the televised Tardis. As a public broadcaster, it can afford to think a little more openly about which sites matter or need to matter.

In a commercial context, meanwhile, DVD bonus materials have flourished in an era in which DVD sales make so much money. So once licensed games can make the money that a film or TV “mothership” can, we can expect to see Hollywood give a real damn about them. Until then, though, maybe some of the more interesting experiments will come from within a public broadcasting system, or will be held back by the need for “motherships” to matter being masked behind notions of the impossibility of the game mattering.

Jonathan Gray

Publication date (from feed): 

Mon, 26 Apr 2010 05:01:41 +0000