Niagara Gazette

Community News Network

September 23, 2013

Does 'Grand Theft Auto V' mean the end of Hollywood?

There's a good chance you've heard: "Grand Theft Auto V," the latest installment of the storied video game franchise, took in over $1 billion in its first week. That's more than any movie released this year, with the exception of "Iron Man 3" (which happens to be the fifth highest-grossing movie of all time). At this rate, "GTA V" could be a nontrivial contributor to the U.S. gross domestic product. It's a cultural event. Even Apple should be impressed.

It's not a stretch to think that the people who didn't go to the movies this summer might have said, "you know what, I'm skipping a few and using the cash for a different kind of blockbuster."

In that case, the most interesting number to keep in mind may be 100 — the approximate number of hours of gameplay that "GTA V" reportedly offers. For those diligent and conscientious enough to explore all the side quests, excursions and games- within-the-game, it provides weeks of entertainment.

That makes the $60 retail price a bargain: 100 hours of gameplay at $0.60 an hour. Compare that with the price of admission to a movie, even a two-and-a-half hour megaproduction. The other advantage for video games — driving the usage cost down even further — is that buyers get to keep the game.

So, could the multiple box-office disappointments last summer reflect the beginning of a shift that goes well beyond blockbuster fatigue?

There's little reason to think that movies and video games couldn't continue to co-exist. But if audiences are becoming overly familiar with Hollywood's version of the three-act- structure and if games continue to grow as a form of narrative entertainment, it's tantalizing to think that the next few years or decades might bring some more serious attempts at experimentation and cross-pollination.

It's already been tried. Most of the results, however, have been marketing masquerading as "interactive storytelling." Despite efforts in both industries to find some creative alchemy, most attempts, though admirable for the effort, fall short of true invention. Movies made from games, games made from movies, movies and games released simultaneously with added content end up being less than the sum of their parts, more like two conventional forms of entertainment smushed together and repackaged as a new product.

Movies and video games both take place in a larger, common universe of possible narratives. But are they fundamentally incompatible? Could anything interesting ever emerge from recombining the DNA of the two?

That's where a game such as "GTA V" breaks through. It's tempting to think of it as an open-ended movie: it's written and directed by storytellers skilled in the cinematic form and produced by an expert group of visual designers. In that sense it feels like a big movie production. As the scale and complexity of these games increase — and as our ability to simulate and render nuance and emotion and ambiguity increases — these games are starting to verge on something entirely new. Whatever one might feel about the storyline of "Grand Theft Auto V," it is hard to deny that it is pushing the boundary of the form.

Open world games have come a long way in a short time, but as impressive as they are, they're still operated on rails — theme-park rides rather than free-driving cars. "GTA V" points the way to games with a narrated openness in which players wouldn't be presented with options so much as they would have tools to model their experience. Giving players the ability to create their own stories within the connected world of a larger story creates a natural, social evolution within the system. In this sense, "Grand Theft Auto V" and "Minecraft" show us what may be coming when the mediums we have now are reimagined as virtual worlds that can grow and evolve over time.

If anyone is going to invent a new form of entertainment from this model, she's probably 15 years old right now, unbound by the conventions and assumptions of received forms. She's growing up in a world in which a significant number of her interactions with other people are online (for better or worse). She consumes serialized programming in 13-hour blocks and doesn't really distinguish between TV shows, movies or Internet videos. She consumes these stories on her phone, tablet and laptop whenever she wants, a few minutes at a time or maybe three hours at a stretch. She makes calls on her computer and surfs the web on her television. She makes no distinction between screens, small or large.

Maybe she'll be the first auteur of this new kind of entertainment — an environment with infinite horizons. She may imagine a platform where players are both the creator and the narrator, able to write the game as they play through it. Perhaps she'll create the first Great American Possibility Space.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
  • Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 4.42.47 PM.png VIDEO: Leopard attacks crowd in India

    A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 22, 2014

  • In cuffs... 'Warlock' in West Virginia accused of sexual assault

    Police in West Virginia say a man claiming to be a “warlock” used promises of magical spells to lure children into committing sexual acts with him.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cats outsmart the researchers

    I knew a lot had been written about dogs, and I assumed there must be at least a handful of studies on cats. But after weeks of scouring the scientific world for someone - anyone - who studied how cats think, all I was left with was this statement, laughed over the phone to me by one of the world's top animal cognition experts, a Hungarian scientist named Ádám Miklósi.

    April 22, 2014

  • McCain 1 House Republicans are more active on Twitter than Democrats

    Your representative in the House is almost certainly on Twitter. Your senator definitely is. But how are they using the social network? Are Democrats more active than Republicans, or vice versa? Who has the most followers on the Hill?

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can Hillary Clinton rock the cradle and the world?

    What's most interesting to contemplate is the effect becoming a grandmother will have on Hillary's ambition. It's one of life's unfairnesses that a woman's peak career years often coincide with her peak childbearing years.

    April 21, 2014

  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 18, 2014

  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 18, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 18, 2014

  • quake.jpg Pennsylvania won’t take action following Ohio ruling on quakes, fracking

    Pennsylvania officials plan no action despite new Ohio rules on drilling that affect a seismically active area near the state line.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
House Ads
AP Video
Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' Obama to Oso: We'll Be Here As Long As It Takes Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly Pipeline Opponents Protest on National Mall Hagel Gets Preview of New High-tech Projects S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter SCOTUS Hears Tv-over-Internet Case Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs
Opinion
House Ads
Night & Day
Twitter News
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Front page