Movies, Meet Sound: How Games May Have Made a Big Mistake

So as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I've been participating in a film class this semester, and there have been some interesting things that have cropped up such as the possible correlation between framerates in games and public reactions. Well, one other thing has come up that really caught my eye: How the movie industry shot itself in the foot.

When movies were first invented, there was no sound, save of course a possible orchestral accompaniment. The original films where the classic 'silent movies' no dialogue, no effects. All story had to be told through the visual medium on screen. If dialogue had to be done, cue cards with the dialogue would be flashed on screen for the audience to read. This became important as the set was able to be as noisy as possible. Cameras could be run along rails for tracking shots, following the actors down pathways without worrying about the amount of noise they made. All of this changed with the introduction of sound.

Before sound had existed, the studio was free to make as much noise as possible and do whatever they wanted with the camera. Films of the late silent movie area often had large complicated shots. However, once sound came into the equation, all of that ended. The camera's had to be placed in large soundproof boxes to prevent additional sound from entering them, and for a time camera movement was lost. It took several years for people to once again begin working with the basic camera techniques they had enjoyed in the silent era. The introduction of sound came to fast, and hobbled the movie industry.

Why is this relevant today? Well, video games may have begun with sound, but we didn't press start with three dimensions. Early video games existed in two. And here's where the comparison starts. I think we jumped into three dimensions too early.

When 3D games first launched, the 2D market all but evaporated. Everyone wanted a 3D game. It didn't matter if the game was terrible (and to be fair, there were some good 3D games, just not many), people bought it because it was 3D. Developers followed the market and begin publishing 3D titles, just like public wanted.

What did we gain from this? For years, 3D games suffered problem after problem, most notably (and ironically) camera problems. Looking back, many 3D games have not aged well, sites that re-review them often give them lower scores then they initially had due to the superiority of modern 3D titles. 2D games however, have not experienced such falling re-playability. In fact, lately 2D games have been making a comeback, with hits like Castle Crashers, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and multiple other modern titles jumping back to the 2D roots gaming has sprung from. Many gamers are experiencing two dimensions for the first time as a result, and these new 2D games claim scores equal to 3D games.

So what can this mean? I would suggest that games slid backwards at the advent of 3D, largely due to inexperience with the capabilities. Much like movies with sound lost camera movement in return, games in 3D lost aspects of gameplay for years that many could not figure out how to recreate in a 3D environment. Only after several years did 3D gaming finally stabilize itself.

So there you have it, we fell into the same trap that the movie industry did. It may be history, but perhaps we can learn from it, and watch ourselves more carefully to avoid once again limiting ourselves in the name of the 'newest and best experience'.

What do you think?

On a side note, an up and coming film director has released a short Sci-Fi film  about video gaming called Turbo. I recommend it as it is a good example of what film directors who grew up around video games can do with the medium (Uwe Boll, of course, being the worst possible example).

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