This post makes generalisations and uses isolated evidence to make a slightly huffy point. Sorry in advance.
A few weeks ago David Cage, head of game developer Quantic Dream and creative lead on fascinating-if-flawed games Fahrenheit (aka Indigo Prophecy) and Heavy Rain, gave a talk at the DICE summit in Vegas in which he lamented the games industry’s “Peter Pan syndrome” and unwillingness to mature as an art form/entertainment medium. Gamasutra have a decent account of it here. The inimitable Rock, Paper, Shotgun have already written a decent counterpoint here, with John “Quoted on the BBC” Walker neatly pointing out the flaws and oversights of Cage’s argument.
However, Walker wrote his post before this Sunday’s Oscars 2013 show. The annual Academy Awards is the event at which Hollywood trots out its most beautiful to show off just how awesome and cool and Important (with a big I) and talented it is, demonstrating that it’s the premier arts/entertainment medium. Better than books (movie adaptations of books are revered, novelisations are dismissed. It’s a one-way thing), better than comics, better than radio, better than TV, and certainly better than video games.
Cage and others frequently complain that the games industry is like the movie industry in its very earliest days, all vaudeville and bombast without the subtlety and nuance that cinema discovered during the 20th century. As gamers, we agonise over the rubbish, insulting and derivative representation of women both as characters in games and within the industry itself. We cringe at the ‘booth babes’ that line up at game industry events, flaunting flesh to supposedly tempt stereotypically horny, male, sweaty nerds towards the latest man-shooter.
The 2013 Oscars began like this:
I’m not especially outraged. There’s already rumour that all the named actresses were in on the joke. If this had been part of Saturday Night Live or an episode of Family Guy, it might have been slightly amusing. Perhaps it even was slightly amusing, even in context. Perhaps it was sexist, perhaps it was satirical. I’m not sure, and I don’t particularly care.
The main thing I take away is that the main event of the movie calendar, the big showcase night where the industry highlights to the entire world exactly what it is, where Hollywood declares its cinematic importance and sophistication, began with a song about boobs.
I’d be pretty embarrassed to work in an industry that chooses to represent itself like that, particularly while there are genuine ongoing issues such as the imploding VFX industry being protested right outside and silenced on stage.
Mostly, though, I’m observing that games are actively trying to deal with issues of sexism, feminism and emotional maturity, engaging in those difficult conversations with the ultimate goal of getting better, while movies are racing in the exact opposite direction.
David Cage never did have a particularly good point. But the next time he insists that “the time has come for a meaningful constructive, balanced new partnership [between the gaming industry and Hollywood]“, I’ll think of the boob song.
I think games are doing just fine without Hollywood, thanks, David.