The technological line between video games
and action movies has become so tenuous that even the nimble Lara
Croft may have a hard time detecting it.
The "Tomb Raider" character's leap to the big screen later
this year is an example of the strengthening ties between computer
and celluloid adventures, according to a panel of game experts and
"I like games that tell stories," said Hal Barwood, a designer
for the LucasArts Entertainment Co. "Games head straight to
action, that's what we're best at ... and movies exert a tremendous
influence upon us."
The forum "Entertainment in the Interactive Age," which
concluded Tuesday at the University of Southern California,
examined different methods of digital storytelling.
Barwood, a former screenwriter who designed two "Indiana
Jones" video games inspired by the Steven Spielberg-directed
movies, said games have begun borrowing movie conventions to
develop stronger narrative plots.
Many game characters now come with complex background stories
not seen in the likes of the Mario brothers or Donkey Kong.
Experts said that raises hopes for this summer's movies "Tomb
Raider" and "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within," because the
source stories aren't as thin as those used to produce such
game-to-movie flops as "Super Mario Bros.," "Street Fighter"
and "Mortal Kombat."
Rather than collecting points, shooting bad guys or leaping
across busy roads, the goal in most new games is to advance the
story by solving puzzles.
"We find that stories, with their intricate complexity, force
events to become the substance of the gameplay," Barwood said.
Modern games like "Tomb Raider," "Shadowman," "Nocturne"
and Barwood's "Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine" borrow
heavily from investigative dramas. Players work long stretches
gathering clues without a villain in sight.
Other games such as the shoot-'em-up "Half-Life" have
strong supporting characters who engage a player's emotions the way
a movie manipulates an audience, said David Perry, founder and
president of Shiny Entertainment.
"In the game ... a partner comes in to help you out, but he
keeps getting in your way," said Perry, who has developed games
based on the movies "Aladdin" and "The Terminator."
The player must then decide whether to turn traitor and
eliminate the partner, he added.
Just as games borrow from movies, films have increasingly used
traditional game techniques to punch up action sequences whether
they know it or not, said Marsha Kinder, a USC cultural theory
Blending special-effects with unusual camera work, films such as
"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "The Matrix" feature fight
and chase techniques more familiar in computer games.
The lead characters in "Run Lola Run" and "Groundhog Day,"
meanwhile, employed the multiple "lives" characteristic found in
video games, allowing them to begin a task anew after failing the
Even the hit CBS reality show "Survivor" borrows video-game
conventions, such as performing feats of strength in a complex
obstacle course, Kinder said.
"It (also) brings together game show, soap opera and
documentary," she said. "Obviously there's a real hunger for this
kind of convergence."