Opinion – At Last, A Decent Video Game Movie

I’ve noticed a bizarre trend with the way I’ve consumed video game related media lately: The idea of the video game ‘movie’. The basic idea is that someone compiles all the key story cutscenes from a game, edits them all together and uploads it to YouTube or a torrent or the like.

I still legitimately don’t know why, but for some reason, I find myself utterly in love with them.

On a base level, it’s rather curious to see just how long the total amount of cutscenes are in a game, compared to how long it’ll actually take you to finish it. For instance, there are reports you can finish off Max Payne 3 in around 10-11 hours, or around 6 if you’re speedrunning. Various cutscene compilations run up to around three hours long.

These compilations work because they’re not just directly ripping the cutscenes and slapping them together, thus leaving plenty of awkward cuts for the viewer. Given the way the game plays out (cutscenes follow almost immediately after killing the last opponent in the room), it’d be even more awkward to just cut the gameplay entirely. Thankfully, the Max Payne 3 ‘movie’ retains plenty of gameplay.

Not to mention in my case, it gives me the satisfaction of seeing just how that game turns out without having to force myself to finish the game. See, I made it a fair while into Max Payne 3, about three chapters from the end, until I hit an insane wall that, for one reason or another, I just couldn’t deal with. And since I couldn’t turn down the difficulty without restarting the game, I was either forced to deal with the situation I got myself into, restart the game or just watch the parts past where I was stuck. You can guess which option I went with.

But when I come to really think about it, it’s possibly telling that by watching these video game ‘movies’, as well as getting addicted to Let’s Plays, my consumption of video games has changed rather dramatically.

I think this realisation came a year or so ago when I realized that I wasn’t going to sample everything ever.  I just don’t have the time anymore. Between two jobs, working on the television show, plus now paying off a house, not to mention the hassle it can be to track down and play specific games. So you know what? I’m totally willing to spend the time watching an awkwardly cut together video that combines all the story sequences of a game, or listen to people who aren’t involved in a game’s production narrate me through it.

Take this brilliant Let’s Play of the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog reboot. The game is generally regarded as one of the worst games of recent times, and something that anyone of sound mind wouldn’t invest money in. But where it becomes something special is that there’s something of a weird arc through the whole Let’s Play, where it becomes just a little bit more than four people playing through one of the worst games of recent times.

It’s a game that I’d never spend the time or money playing though, so I’m absolutely glad that there’s as comprehensive and entertaining series of videos of the entire game for anyone to watch. And it’s not the first time I’ve substituted a full playthrough with a Let’s Play — Sonic Unleashed, D (and it’s sequel), Final Fantasy X, and all nine Mario Party games are just some of the Let’s Plays I’ve watched.

Then there are the “official” recaps which have allowed me to grasp some of Sega’s games, like Shenmue. It especially helped me through Yakuza 3 — it was my first Yakuza game and the detailed recaps of the previous two games went such a long way in helping me grasping the complex relationships present in that series. As for Shenmue — it was more for entertainment’s sake.

Though there is a dark side to all this, at least in my case. My watching habits reminded me of my many poor purchases. For instance, I purchased Hitman Absolution at launch, paying around $70 for it. I got around halfway through — which equated to about four hours of playtime — before just losing interest in it. I’d gotten tired with the game’s approach to just about every situation and just couldn’t bring myself to continue playing. So I gave up, downloaded a ‘movie’ of all the cutscenes, just to see what I was missing out on. Turns out not that much in the end.

But unlike Max Payne 3, I actually do want to finish Hitman at some point. Perhaps it’s due to the many ways you can approach situations, or because I don’t particularly care about the story, but at some point I do want to finish Absolution. Maybe not immediately, but soonish.

I don’t see myself changing my media consumption habits to avoid playing through games, but these ‘movies’ are something that shouldn’t be shafted as much as they are. Yes, it’s shady and can be a rather poor way to experience a game, but as someone who loves video games, loves the medium as a whole, but doesn’t have enough time or money to see everything, I’m willing to put up with just about anything to ‘get’ a game.


Come back on Thursdays for more thoughts and views from the NG+ cast and crew.

[Image credits: United Artists (screen-captured from YouTube), Rockstar Games, Exmainer]