Archive for video games

On The Price of Games…

Posted in Grumblings with tags , , , on October 30, 2018 by chemiclord

In a post made just a few days ago, I made the comment that gamers were part of the reason why the financial environment of games it so terrible.  And I want to expand on that, because just that throwaway sentence in and of itself comes across as a bit unfair.

Jim Sterling (I guess you could call him a gaming pundit) has an excellent video on the topic of game cover prices.  You should watch it if you haven’t already, because it offers a lot of good counterpoints and context for what I’m going off about here.


First, what is he correct about? He’s absolutely right that adjusting the cover price of games won’t stop the predatory practices “AAA” publishers do now.  The toothpaste is already out of the tube, and there’s no getting it back in.

He’s also correct that worrying about major “AAA” titles going the way of mobile pricing is too little, too late.  We’re by and large already there.

But I also think he makes the same sort of mistake most pundits of most disciplines make; focusing too heavily on the top and the bottom of the food chain, and wind up ignoring the middle.

Right now, independent studios have one of two choices; either they stick to budget “retro-styled” titles that require little development costs, or they sell their souls to a major publisher.  You don’t hear more and more tales of big publishers buying studios whole hog because these studios want to be wage slaves to a big soulless corporate entity… it’s because unless they want to keep making titles that look like they came out of RPG Maker, they have to.

The independent studio is basically extinct at this point because it simply isn’t financially solvent to be in operation… and a large part of that is because a $60 price point for a modern styled game that doesn’t have huge financial backing is too massive a risk for any potential indie studio to make.

The profit margin for the sort of game Sterling wants is so paper thin that one title that doesn’t sell like gangbusters means that studio is dead.  Good luck finding too many people willing to take that chance.

There’s no salvaging AAA publishers at this point, and we really need to stop trying to shame them into doing the right thing.  If we want the sort of deep, immersive titles of old, we’re going to need to be willing to pay more for them.  That’s where the games we remember could potentially be found… but if we don’t show the willingness to support those attempts by putting more up front, the studios that might be willing to take that chance aren’t going to.

And that is something we have stubbornly and petulantly refused to do for nearly two decades at this point.  Then we wonder and complain why things keep getting worse.

Why are Video Game Movies so Bad?

Posted in Grumblings with tags , , , on May 29, 2016 by chemiclord

This is a question that seems to come up more than once, and usually after the latest “big studio” attempt to transition from the console to the big screen.

And sure enough, the topic has churned up now that Warcraft and Angry Birds stumb…

I still can’t believe that’s a thing.

But the fact that it is a thing ties into Problem #1:

Problem #1: Hollywood is picking up some REALLY dumb games.

This really isn’t something that’s too hard to figure out, especially since Hollywood has a really hard time producing good movies from screenplays developed right in their wheelhouse.

So, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that when they’re looking to adapt a video game, they’d point at the top sellers list and go, “Ehhh… that one.  Get the rights to that one.”

Which is how you wind up with Tetris: The Movie.

And I wish I was making that up.  Truth can be stranger than any fiction, and leads to Problem #2:

Problem #2: Let’s be honest… video game storytelling has traditionally stunk.

Sorry, but it’s true.  You know it.  I know it.  We all know it.  And that very painful trait isn’t something that translates well into a medium where the story has to carry the work.

Scoff at Mortal Kombat and Super Mario Bros. for how awful those movies were, but really… how many people have actually read the companion material for the really popular games in the medium’s history (i.e. the ones that actually get tapped to make that jump)?

For the longest time, video game stories were an afterthought.  The gameplay itself was expected to be the carrying element.  It’s only fairly recently that the storytelling in video games has reached a point where it reasonably is expected to be a primary (if not the primary) element in the quality of the product.

We’re only now reaching a point where the likes of Mass Effect or Assassin’s Creed will start drawing interest from major studios, the latter of which is actually being filmed as we speak, and one that I think has the narrative chops to make said transition well.

Except for Problem #3:

Problem #3: The Uwe Boll Effect

For all the blatant cheesecake and horny male pandering, underneath the Dead or Alive series hides a remarkably coherent plot (albeit a weird one).  So, obviously, the answer is to completely gut that plot, ignore everything about the characterization, relationships, interactions, and how events entwine… and instead mash together something that barely resembles what your audience has already demonstrated they resonate with.

This is hardly a problem with just video games.  Books to movies like to do this too; there seems to be a pathological urge by directors and screen writers to put their own “stamp” on the work by arbitrarily changing things.

At least with books, you can argue that cinematography requires some changes (things that happen in a book, like internal thoughts, don’t really translate well, for example).  But video games, being a visual medium itself, generally shouldn’t require that much narrative meddling.

There’s a bunch of other tripwires involved, but these are the three big ones from my angle, and until those have been resolved, I’m afraid we’re not going to be seeing too many good video game movies in the near future.