Ready actor one: the fusion of video games and film

The meta film-within-a-film experience where audiences get a zoomed-out view of production (seeing not only actors but set designers, speech coaches, and directors) may have felt immersive in 1952 with Singin’ in the Rain. But with the recent fusion of film and video games, production companies are taking immersion to a whole new level. 

Today, audiences can directly interact with the plot of a movie through select responses, actions, and more. This kind of control over the storyline now reflects a video game-like atmosphere. At the same time, video games are offering story modes, letting players build a cohesive narrative as they continue the game. 

With Netflix investing in a gaming sector, and the popular game Fortnite using film-like storytelling, it’s clear we’re seeing a fusion of film and video games. But how are production companies currently executing that? And what does this mean for the future of entertainment and the crews that create it?

Film adopts video game control

With films recently integrating video game-like control, audience members now have a seat in the director’s chair. Feature films with a two-hour runtime have the opportunity to become increasingly longer with seemingly limitless plot permutations. In the past, a movie’s twist could only be experienced once. But as video games fuse into film, audiences can now make decisions with unique results for many surprises. Viewers go from passive observers to active participants in constructing the narrative. This intensifies the stakes in the film, as well as deepens their investment in the storylines.

This nonlinear storytelling most famously debuted in Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch back in 2018– leaving the fate of Stefan Butler’s life in the hands of the audience. It was an experiment in adding video game-style choices that would impact the overall plot and turns out viewers enjoyed taking command. 94% of watchers actively made selections during ‘gameplay.’ This successful fusion of film and video games encouraged Netflix’s investment in interactive film and led to the development of their gaming division.

Since the merging of passive and active entertainment is at its beginnings, there’s exciting potential for the future. Traditional film can take its pick of video game elements to include for entertainment value. For example, with the advancement of AI voices, custom conversations could be a responsive part of gameplay. Or, for a more immersive experience, movies could adapt the 2D screen to a VR world. Letting the audience go for a spin in the director’s chair will be a great way to keep all kinds of people engaged in film. 

Video games deliver film-like exploration

Video games have included cinematic aspects to their gameplay for a long time.  Since the 1980s, video games have tied in video clips (eventually called cutscenes) to show story development without actually needing a player to direct it. A cutscene gives the person behind the controller a quick break from gameplay but keeps their eyes engaged. It’s used as a way to help gameplay fatigue—like a water break during a hike.

Now imagine if you, as a player, could insert yourself into this cinematic experience. Through VR, AR, or story modes in video games, that potential is now a reality. Video games have upped the ante, adopting film-level scenes and experiences to create compelling gameplay that goes beyond completing tasks.

Fortnite: Save The World is an excellent example of a video game adopting cinematic principles. The intent of the game is to keep monsters out of your bases as you explore their world and discover stories along the way. As you earn certain achievements, you don’t just “level up” and play harder; you open up more information about the world in which you’re playing and learn backstories for a comprehensive view of how the Fortnite universe got here. And unfurling the narrative in a film-like way turns out to be a fantastic way to keep players engaged. After all,  it’s a game with over a million users.

Cross-collaboration is the future

The fusion of film and video games is an indicator of a fascinating future of entertainment. But the biggest question hanging over film and video game studios alike is: what does this mean for members of both industries? Closer collaboration is required to unite experience on both sides, and there are a few questions one should evaluate to produce the best fusion piece of entertainment.

Can you support new storytelling?

Changing the visuals of how your work is produced also changes the way your story is told. If films add video game-like layers of interaction, they move from a linear story to a story map. Different choices receive different results, which means different outcomes throughout the narrative and many different endings. Video games moving towards films have the opposite requirement. Can players make the choices they want to make while still coming to the same (satisfying) ending?

Do you have the right people on your team?

Adding new aspects to media requires new abilities, and that means ensuring experienced professionals in both fields are working together on the same project from the beginning. Having pros do what they’re trained to do helps strengthen films’s foray into the gaming’s territory and vice versa. A successful example of this was when Fortnite sought out famed director duo the Russo brothers to direct the cinematic cutscene opener for Fortnite’s Chapter 2, Season 6 opener. With their broad directing experience, they delivered a compelling cutscene to add a film component to the video game. 

Can your teams communicate? 

The people who build the future of entertainment will need to talk to each other to do so. So do they have some background in the same languages? Crash courses, meetings, or regular check-ins can increase knowledge of each other’s jargon, so no one is left in the dark. 

Fusion for the future

The future is bright with potential. Films featuring video game-like interaction can draw in passionate fans like Vyminal, a gamer who was impressed with the integration of choices and storyline variety in Bandersnatch. Video games with dynamic story modes or cinematic cutscenes can entice individuals new to gaming. Both industries will have to unite disparate knowledge bases and have seamless communication in the process. Cross-collaboration between film and game professionals can lead to hybrid teams, more knowledgeable team members, and exciting perspectives on building the future of these pastimes. This fusion will usher in a new era of entertainment.

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