BAFTA Games Question Time: Games as Big as Film?

Video: TV's Jonathan Ross argues that film tells story and creates characters better than interactive entertainment

At a sell-out event in London last week, BAFTA and GamesIndustry International held Games Questions Time, a public forum aimed at shedding light on the continued success of the video games industry.

Presented by Eurogamer's Ellie Gibson, the panel consisted of broadcaster Jonathan Ross, Torsten Reil of CSR Racing publisher Natural Motion, Sports Interactive's Miles Jacobson and Lego Star Wars publisher TT Games' Tom Stone.

In the fourth short video of the event published today, answering a question from the audience, Ross compares games to film, arguing that the latter has more emotional impact due to better storytelling and characterisation.

More videos from the BAFTA Guru series can be viewed here.

Latest comments (22)

Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 5 years ago
No would be my honest answer.

Not in the monetary sense but, rather in the meaning sense. It's true we all love a good game but, not in the sense that we love say a Harold Lloyd classic or Citizen Kane. Until games achieve that level of ingrained recognition, where the player will dust off the old CD and play through a game again from start to finish just to enjoy the story. That to me will be the turning point. When someone like Jonathan Ross hosts Game 201X on BBC one to talk about the stories of the latest game releases. That to me is when we become as big as movies.

So far the closest I've come to seeing that isn't some Quantic Dreams slideshow but, rather the unassuming Prince of Persia: Sands Of Time. Why sands of time, well it's the one game I actually still go back to just for the narrative. The princes comments, the ending where it turns out he is telling the princess the tale knowing she will not believe a word of it. The heroic exit stage left without getting the girl. I still even tell friends how wonderful the ending is if they ask what old games they should play!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Peter Dwyer on 13th December 2012 8:53am

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Dominic Clarke Game Developer 5 years ago
Opinion is my own...
The question about whether games can "hold the esteem that the film industry does"... I think it's possible, but I don't think it will be because of storytelling. It will be because of fantastic interactive experiences. Sure, some games may have good stories, but films will always be better at telling them. If you give players choices about how the story in a game develop, then you're no better than one of the "Choose your own Adventure" books that were popular in the 80s. They were good fun, but they could never rival a straight adventure novel because of the interactive nature of the book. However, if the story is something that chains together the gameplay sections, then it's possible for it to be very compelling, but the game as a whole will be judged on the gameplay first and foremost, and if it isn't up to scratch then the whole thing suffers.
Games have the potential to offer something that films cannot, shared experiences that we haven't even imagined yet, and that's the great thing about them. Comparing them to films is the wrong way to assess whether or not they are worthy of our time.
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Paul Smith Dev 5 years ago
I have to disagree with him on the "no one plays a game again 4 years later " etc part, I know lots of people who dust of their n64's to play OoT, It was only the other month I was playing through Final Fantasy 7 again over 10 years since I last played it.

I think a lot of people just don't have the time to do so or haven't been playing long enough/played the right games to warrant it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Smith on 13th December 2012 2:28pm

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Show all comments (22)
Anthony Gowland Consulting F2P Game Designer, Ant Workshop5 years ago
Paul, do you think there might be a tiny bit of a selection bias in the people you (or probably anyone reading this site) surround yourself with?
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Pier Castonguay Programmer 5 years ago
Movies span over 2 hours, games, can reach over 25hours. Just like book, it have the time to better develop the story. Point and Click adventure games and some high-end RPG have way better story than most Hollywood movies in my opinion.
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Wojciech Mroczek Brand Development Manager, Klabater5 years ago
I would heartily recommend TellTalle's The Walking Dead game to Mr Ross :-)
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Paul Smith Dev 5 years ago
I know many different types of "Gamers". I just believe a lot of people haven't played games worth playing again. A lot of games these days have a lot of grind in them, Assassin's creed for example as much as I like the series I wouldn't want to play those games again, where as Warcraft 3 or the Thief series I could. I bet Jonathan Ross hasn't played either of those games so I can see why he has that opinion.
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I would agree... but only because games try too hard to BE film.

The linear story-tellign model is really a bad fit for games. As we develop the tools and techniques to tell non-linear truly interactive stories through experience rather then narrative, games will come into their own and surpass linear media for impact.

Ayiti:The Cost of Life is a great example of a game that tells the "story" of poverty in a way more powerful then any film could.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Jeffrey Kesselman on 13th December 2012 5:15pm

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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 5 years ago
Until games promtoe their authors, they will be pulp.

Art is intrinsically connected to authorship. A faceless studio cannot make art. An ensemble can - where you get a sense of the actual people making the thing. But the nature of art is that it comes from a source: the source is the creator - and that means the person; the name.
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Paul Gheran Scrum Master 5 years ago
Completely true.

But of course, games aren't about a story or character development, they are about a game, so anyone who says this and believes they are insightful is a moron.

Why are people so vapid granted media attention, and subsequently, why do I seem to care so much?
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd5 years ago
The only games I think really compete with films on a narrative/meaning front are those that truly understand the emotion and story-telling of games needs to be personal and interactive, rather than based in dialog and heavy-handed cutscenes. That said, those DO exist! Games that tell their story through the gameplay and design like Journey, LIMBO, and to a decent extent Portal, are genuinely up there for me.

And there's another metric we should be measuring when comparing entertainment to entertainment, especially in games, which is the actual raw fun and entertainment value. Is there any narrative to a Mario game? No, but I would still rather play it for two hours than watch many movies.

Games are also better at certain genres. They're great for escapism (better than movies, probably not as good as books for most people). They allow us to live in another world far better than even a great film. They're great for putting you in control of your own narrative. How many horror movies aren't terrible? Not many, because they exist on the predication that the characters make awful decisions. Horror games though? Lots, because they let us make our own decisions and thus have a better emotional impact.

Personal opinions of course, but yes, I see games as a very meaningful medium, with much to offer still. They are also still the only truly social form of entertainment, and to me, there is a LOT of value in that.
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Adrian Nantchev Animator - General 3D 5 years ago
Load of crap, what does he know about games...
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Mike Engle Senior Game Designer, Zynga5 years ago
Games better at TELLING a story? No.

Games better at SHOWING a story? Absolutely. (Eventually.)

Remind me again: is it better to show or tell in narrative?
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Jamie Read 3D Artist, Neon Play Ltd5 years ago
I wish I had managed to watch these live, the replays seem to only show Jonathan Ross' opinions.
I think films are very structured compared to most games; you only get/see what the director wants you to. Games are a lot more fluid, in that you can interact how you want with it, pace it how you want and that affects the emotions you will get from the game. I love the immersion of games, you feel you are living the story, rather than purely watching it from the outside.
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Games will surpass films in every element. simple story. case closed!
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
So why do so many films steal from games? Or worse, LOOK like games?

Anyway, as someone who owns over 2000 games (and replays some of them every so often), I'd disagree with a lot of points. This is why games today are seen as so disposable - people need to dive deeper and maybe play games where the narrative is as important as the gameplay (or close to it).
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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 5 years ago
Games will surpass films in every element. simple story. case closed
Bit short sighted there aren't we or have films and film making simply stopped evolving in your reality?

Surely the actual likely outcome is that the two mediums merge in some way into a new interactive medium.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 5 years ago
I go back to Uncharted (and its sequels) every year or two, for the story and the characters. And with this series, especially, I'm not sure I see any difference between it and movies at all, aside from the fact that I have to perform various actions to get through the unchanging story, rather than just sitting there. I'd really like to see Mr. Ross explain the differences between the Uncharted games and, say, the James Bond films.

I'm not dismissing other game forms, by the way, just trying to point out that I think it's possible for a game to slot right in to the nich in which mass-market films reside.
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Roland Austinat roland austinat media productions|consulting, IDG, Computec, Spiegel Online5 years ago
"Art is intrinsically connected to authorship. A faceless studio cannot make art."

My first reaction is: thank you, Tim.
My second was Andy Warhol's production collective. How many got credited past himself?

I am still a firm believer in authorship and crediting of authors.

I like to ask the question: How many people want to know about actors and directors - how many want to read about a certain movie's characters? Consequentially, how many ask about how Sonic or Lara are doing but rather about what the designers are about?

Then again, these are tightly handled by their PR folks and readers don't really want to read anything but numbers of guns, levels etc - but that is a rant for another day.
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Emily Rose Freelance Artist 5 years ago
The stories I've created and experienced in games have been far better than any films I've watched, You can't compare 2 hours infront of a big screen to years of playing EVE online or another sandbox, where your actions actually shape the world and the story. It's a different medium, and trying to do stories where you aren't in control of it is a waste of the medium's potential.
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Aaron Brown BA Computer Science Student, Carnegie Mellon University5 years ago
I have to play the walking dead! Because right now I feel the same as Mr.Ross. I never feel a nostalgic, sentimental attachment to characters or the stories that unfold in video games, the way that one does with movies.
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Dave Green Video Games Events Producer, BAFTA5 years ago
I wish I had managed to watch these live, the replays seem to only show Jonathan Ross' opinions.
Hi guys, I'm afraid we don't have the full video, but the full audio from the event is available to stream or download on BAFTA Guru:
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