Beyond Xbox #2: Videogames vs. Film Animation

Why is it that I don’t understand how so many people can praise animation in film and pooh pooh videogames so easily. As I sit here and Watch Starz Inside: A Pixar Story (more specifically Part 2), I can’t help but see the exuberance oozing out of Richard Roeper as he chronicles Ratatouille. It’s no secret that film has had eons to build up the relationship it has with audiences, but why is it so easy for giant swaths of people to ignore the fastest growing entertainment segment there is?

A kid only taboo created by them and only them can’t be the only answer to this, can it? Then again, nearly all of the Pixar films covered in this documentary are of the kid nature. Sure, they work on many different levels, but that doesn’t keep them from being “kiddy”.

The terms “ingenious” and “innovative” animation are brought up as Ratatouille is continued to be referenced. Now, what about any of the Pixar films to date are anymore “ingenious” or “innovative” then any of the “next-gen” videogames of late. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone outside of the videogame industry dare utter such words when referring to a videogame. “Leaving us with a story and characters we won’t soon forget” is another quote that has nothing but the most debauchery written all over it. Giving one example of many, GTA IV counteracts a statement like that with ease.

Pixar’s next film Wall-E is to take Pixar where they’ve never gone before, outerspace. Now, surely this notion is played out when it comes to videogames, so why is it so ground breaking when it’s done in a flim as opposed to something like Homeworld or Freespace. Countless Space (ish) shooters from R-TYPE to Ikaruga can be found in and around any platform of your choice, but in the grand scheme of things, those never get the deserved fame they deserve. Going back to the early days of Disney, 2D animation was very much in the same shoes as the videogame industry is now, but the main difference these days is the speed of which these feats are being accomplished.

2D animation was the pinnacle of animation for what, over 80 plus years, until the advent of 3D anything back in the late 70’s. Paralleling that with the videogame world is an utter and complete joke. During that same time frame starting in the late 70’s, videogames up until now have not only moved beyond 2D animation, it has jumped into 3D while doing it (nearly) all in real-time as film continues to rest on it’s laurels with only giving the audience a passive experience into their medium.

Admittedly this could very easily become a tug-o-war between these two mediums. The very fact that one is passive and the other interactive make the two relatively inoperable, but saying that there’s no real value in a passive entertainment is surely stretching it a little bit to far. It is mainly what the masses have been subjected and exposed to so of course there’s still a need or relevance for it, but moving that into a game world where that same audience has some say into what they see and interact with is where the real power of entertainment is obviously going.

The animation prowess of Altair in Assassins Creed alone should give enough incite into what videogames are capable of. Directing Altair’s movements and direction as the animation system makes it seem all so effortless is only a dream that film will never obtain. The recently released GTA IV continues this trend even further as Niko propels himself around Liberty City with a relentless amount of animations that not only allows him to climb over fences, but slide into cover and properly shift his weight and lower body as he runs down stairs. Those two examples alone are only relevant in the setting of a videogame, as if those are seen in a film, no one notices it because they had no part in the choice of that character or characters doing so.

High-end and “groundbreaking” animation of the highest caliber is being done in the videogame space with nearly every release, so why is it that the film critics of today only choose to see the film medium as being legitimate? Watching a greatly animated film is assuredly a thing of beauty, but comparing that to the feeling of having a real impact on the actions you’re watching on the screen with if not the same or similar animation is beyond the scope of any film from now or until that pseudo mythical judgment day. Why continue to only eat the ice cream, when the cake is no longer a lie and it has arrived?

-William “thewilleffect” Bell-

4 Responses

  1. Whoa, really good read! One day Video Games will get the same respect. Hopefully… 🙂

  2. It’s not so bad. Videogames are already starting to get a critical following in the aesthetics arena. Just browse youtube for clips of cutscenes from bioshock or half-life 2.

    Companies too are starting to realize where their strengths lay on the visual front but it’ll take some time to build a critical following. Five years ago there was no such thing as a games cinematographer and now companies are starting to post for this position.

    In the mean time, serious academic work is already on its way (if primarily on aspects of play). It won’t be long until there’s an academic branch in the liberal arts and film schools as well.

    Movies (including animation) had a 70 year head start. We’ll catch up soon enough 😉

  3. Oddly enough I believe that the fact that the medium is called “video games” may contribute to why it’s still seen as a teenager’s passtime…but seriously, these days I find it somewhat diificult to sit through a movie because it’s way too passive especially after playing games like Final Fantasy, Mass Effect, and now GTA 4!!! Speaking of GTA 4 , $500 million in revenue in one week! WOW!!!!!

  4. Lucas: I agree. The term videogame has outworn its welcome. I’ve been sitting on thoughts about this for quite sometime, but not until a solution is devised somehow it’ll probably stay dormant for just a little while longer.

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