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Why Video Games Are Better Than Movies

February 04, 2016

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Let me preface this by saying I love movies. Absolutely adore them. I went to film production school and still create my own little films. But if I was given the ultimate choice to choose one over the other, I would choose video games over movies and here are three reasons why.

Passive vs Active Entertainment

Whether you're watching a movie at the cinema or at home. It is a very passive experience. Sure there are the odd event films where people are singing along or booing and cheering, but those films are few and far between. 95% of the time, watching a movie means sitting down for 2 hours and staring at a screen, quietly. Letting the filmmaker tell you their story, by only showing you exactly what they want you to see. When they want you to see it.

Movies for the most part ask you to sit quietly, with littler interaction for 2 hours.Movies for the most part ask you to sit quietly, with littler interaction for 2 hours.Courtesy of Wikipedia

Video games on the other hand often let you do what you want, when you want. They make you an active participant in the story, sometimes even letting you shape the outcome via branching paths, moral choices and dialog trees. You might still be working towards one of many endings the creators have set for players, but how you get there is up to you.

I always like to bring up the PS3 game Heavy Rain when talking about the uniqueness of storytelling in games. Heavy Rain was a video game campaign that I had beat and loved but when I started talking to my friends about the ending and which characters lived or died, I found that everyone had very different outcomes and experiences.

The choices you make in Heavy Rain greatly impact the characters on emotional and physical levels.The choices you make in Heavy Rain greatly impact the characters on emotional and physical levels.Courtesy of Sony

The choices presented to the player, genuinely impacted the outcome of the story in many ways, so that with multiple playthroughs, you could have very different experiences, even on an emotional level. Movies don't quite offer that.

Organic Moments Of Chaos

This ties back into the passive vs active entertainment but video games offer a completely unpredictable and uniquely organic experience. Always keeping you on your toes. Imagine if you were watching a movie but the movie was also watching you back, seeing how you react to certain things; are you scared, happy, or maybe nervous? And then took that information and added more bad guys in to make the fight scenes more intense, or ratcheted up the tension in a horror movie to scare you more. it would be incredible but it is also impossible today.

Inside out is a fantastic film. But it doesn't matter how many times you watch it, it is always the same experience.Inside out is a fantastic film. But it doesn't matter how many times you watch it, it is always the same experience.Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

Video games on the other hand offer this sort of dynamic. The game is always watching you as a player, making notes of what you are doing and then reacting accordingly. Bad guys in video games can read that you are hiding in one spot, or flanking around to another. Enemies have the ability to change their strategies and adjust aggressiveness on the fly based on what the player is doing.

Story missins in The Division could be a unique experience every time, thanks to reactive A.I.Story missins in The Division could be a unique experience every time, thanks to reactive A.I.Courtesy of Ubisoft

Video games don't just make you an active participant in the story, they can genuinely read and react to a players habits, creating moments of pure pandemonium out of what should have been simple fetch quest.

Always Evolving

The video game industry is young compared to the movie industry and yet there has been more change and innovation in how game designers tell their stories in 10 years than there has been in filmmaking over the last 30 years.

Take action movies for example. They haven't really changed since the 80's, other than better visual effects (again, like first point, there are a few exceptions to the rule). But the formula remains nearly identical. And being realistic, the formula will probably not be evolving anytime in the near future.

Her Story, shares it's narrative with non-linear live action clips the player must sort through.Her Story, shares it's narrative with non-linear live action clips the player must sort through.Courtesy of Her Story

Video games on the other hand, thanks to being an interactive medium, have many ways in which they can engage with the players and evolve their stories. The Witness tells it's own story through exploration and puzzle solving. There is no direction given to the player whatsoever. Her Story, a recent indie darling, tells it's story through a series of interactive live action police interview tapes. The player then must search through databases, uncover clues and piece together the truth behind the lies themselves.

The Witness tells a story through puzzles and environment details.The Witness tells a story through puzzles and environment details.Courtesy of Comcept

Movies have a great formula that works for them but they aren't changing much and that's what excites me about the future of video games. The possibilities are nearly endless, especially with virtual reality becoming a very serious and impressive reality. For those reasons and more, if forced to choose, I would pick video games over movies. 

Have Your Say!

Do you prefer your entertainment in the form of video games or movies? Tell us why in the comments below!