Thursday, March 05, 2009

Somebody Please Regulate Movie-Based Video Games

I wish I could sit down with the movie studios and game companies and have them explain to me why they're constantly conniving to gag up these home video games based on movies. The two media just don't interrelate. This should have been apparent as early as 1982, when Atari released that godawful E.T. game cartridge. See that black pixel over there? It's a Reese's Piece.

This morning, as I was buying my Big Gulp, I saw copies of Quantum of Solace (X-Box Edition) on display behind the counter. Why would anyone, ever — in this economy or any other — spend even a dime to "play" James Bond's character in Quantum of Solace? You might as well try to sell me Nights in Rodanthe for my PlayStation 2. I don't think people even think this through anymore. I think it's just expected that there will be a Burger King promotion and a video game, whether or not the final cut of the movie merits either.

I get why they do it: it's another revenue stream for the film producers — and it's cost savings for the game makers, because they don't have to do the work to think up a ham-handed "plot" for the game. Hollywood's already done it. Shoot: they don't even have to design the characters or their costumes: make the guy look like Daniel Radcliffe, then put this robe on him. Done. So there's all kinds of incentive to make these games, because they're cheap and they cross-promote well. They don't have to be good to sell, and as a result they usually aren't. And the public suffers. Sometimes even the movie sucks, because it's apparent on its face that it was primarily created to spin off video games. This is a bad public outcome, and it cries out for government intervention to adjust the warped production incentives on both sides.

I might feel differently about this if Hollywood and the game companies could think outside of the box a little. There actually is an opportunity for synergy here — for the best in these respective businesses to get together and do something great. I'm thinking of a 9 1/2 Weeks video game, where you get to control Mickey Rourke, and the game console controls Kim Basinger, and it's exceedingly lifelike and maybe reaches beyond the artistic confines of the movie . . .

Absent something like that, there ought to be regulation, some sort of a law, a review board that decides which projects get to proceed.

Another phenomenon screaming for government intervention is Saturday Night Live actors' longstanding practice of milking full-length feature films out of characters fit only for ten-minute skits (at best). But I'll get to that at a later date.

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