April 26, 2006

[Personal] Me against the Movies

I just watched "Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children," and I think I finally figured out why I'm so aligned with most gamers on games, but so completely off-kilter with most gamers when it comes to movies.

Games are generally about knowledge, learning and choice. "I know facts A, B, and C; from that I can learn item D; and that helps me make choice E." Games that violate previously learned knowledge tend to fare very poorly with most gamers.

Movies are generally about suspension of disbelief. "I don't exist in their world, I'm merely observing it from a safe distance."

Gamers tend to watch movies in cued-anticipation mode. "I have learned from cue A that when it occurs, action B will follow. Therefore, I'll prepare myself accordingly there." That's why you see all the gamers going on about the first siren scene in "Silent Hill (2006)", because it's the first time in the movie that the associated cue appears, and therefore the first time they are able to apply their knowledge. The momentary expectation and action are the primary drivers.

Cued anticipation works wonderfully for games. Most games give you a clue that X is going to happen so that you can properly react to it, like the creak on trapped chests in "Diablo," or tracers on bullets in most first-person shooters. The clue informs you as to how you should react, and you try to react accordingly.

General movie-goers tend to watch movies in anxious-anticipation mode. Cues can act as foreshadowing, but it isn't the action, it's the resolution that matters. The movie goers who went to see "Silent Hill" were more concerned with figuring out the Alessa/Sharon, trying to figure out how this was going to lead to a happy ending, etc.

Anxious anticipation works well when you have no pre-existing knowledge, because you spend your time gathering clues and trying to analyze them. It helps with the immersion because you're brain is active trying to figure things out.

So, why did I like "Silent Hill" when most gamers and most reviewers tended to loathe it? When I'm gaming, I follow the cues. When I watch movies, I only care about the ending. With that combination, "Silent Hill" was essentially made for me. It relied on having some base knowledge of the source universe to be able to decipher the conclusion, but it strayed enough from the cues from the game that I wouldn't have been able to use any of my learned knowledge from the gameplay to prepare myself for the future.

In short, it was a video game movie for fans of the video game that were willing to leave the game behind. Gamers kept picking up on the gamisms in there, expecting pop-ups like "You got the school office key," while the moviegoers were simply wondering what would be found as a result of finding the keys.

For the most part, I was able to leave the game behind. Only the last two minutes threw my gamer half into convulsions, and that was because everything that occured in those two minutes betrayed all of the knowledge that I had acquired previously.

Gamers were feeling their knowledge betrayed from the start, with Rose instead of Harry, the creatures from "Silent Hill 2" instead of the original game, Rose not having a clip-on flashlight, etc. Moviegoers were feeling off because of Christopher's search for Rose, the interdimensional aspect that was added to the town to support the last two minutes not really meshing with the remainder of the world knowledge presented to them, and the pacing wasn't exactly standard for horror flicks, but was established fare for the game.

This may not make a lot of sense to you. To be honest, it barely makes enough sense to me to write it...but at least I now know why I'm able to enjoy flicks that my gaming buddies seem to loathe with a passion normally reserved for cross-dressing Nazi pedophiles on acid.

1 comment:

Ranter said...

Huh, wah, did somebody say something?