Thursday, January 31, 2013

Warcraft, Duncan Jones and videogame movies in general

I don't play World of Warcraft, but I am a big fan of Duncan Jones so far. This was originally posted as a reply to a comment on the Badass Digest story about Jones' opinions on how to make a "proper" videogame film.

Posted by "FuckYouAsshole"
I feel like Nevaldine and Taylor pretty much gave us the blueprint for making a good video game movie- Crank and Crank 2.

This strikes me as a fundamentally flawed way of thinking about videogames. Those films seem, to me, a blueprint for making a film that feels like you're watching someone else play a certain type of videogame, rather than how to make videogame movies generally.

In the last few years it feels like there's been a concerted effort across the games industry to tell compelling narratives in games - whether it's something linear like Uncharted 2, an atmospheric anthropological discovery like BioShock or an emotional grinder like The Walking Dead.

Even Grand Theft Auto 4 tried to tell a more complex story than most of its predecessors, although in that instance the extreme juxtaposition of Niko's character in cutscenes and his actions while under player control did a lot to undermine the moral complexity the writers seemed to be going for.

The problem with translating a lot of those linear cinematic stories to film is that they're already aping other movies in a lot of ways - if not lifting character developments and plot points directly, they've certainly been heavily influenced by genre conventions. So yeah, you could make an Uncharted movie, but what's the point? A film version would just cut out the "game" bits, so you'd have the cutscenes plus some minor new connective tissue. I've seen that already.

Something like World of Warcraft is a much bigger challenge to translate in a way that everyone who plays the game will recognise. It's got mountains of lore and backstory, but a large number of players probably don't care about that in their day-to-day gameplay. Which side of the Horde/Alliance divide you play on is going to change your perspective of characters (depending how much RP you do) too, and while the actual mechanics might be similar the experience of playing one class or race is going to be different from another.

How do you tell a story in that world that players are going to respond to, but that isn't going to alienate non-players? Is it going to be a canon story? Is it going to feature known characters, or follow a small group of amateur adventurers drawn into the larger conflicts?

There are a lot of ways this could go down, and even though I don't play WoW (I've installed it twice, but never bothered actually starting it up) I'm intrigued to see which route Duncan Jones takes with it.

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