I want to say what I know many gamers have thought, but few say for a fear of a backlash. I truly believe that gaming has surpassed Hollywood in terms of storytelling and set pieces. Though it can only be said about a handful of titles, video games immerse you a great deal deeper than watching films, because with gaming, for the most part, you are in control. You are part of narrative process by dictating what happens next, even if the game held your hand to get you there.
And the other element that propels gaming past movies, for me anyway, is that gaming makes it easier to suspend disbelief. Gaming makes the worlds you find yourself in more believable. We are not trying to digest the fact that the worlds in these games are shoddy CG pasted on top of real life. With games, we know they are CG, and coding, and I think we tend to be more forgiving for that reason. And again, I feel the need to stress that my views on gaming surpassing films is really only applicable to a handful of games and moments, which I will talk about here. But I can tell you that these moments dropped my jaws in ways that films can only dream about, and this is coming from a guy who makes his living talking about films.
And something essential that everyone reading this needs to understand is, the rising up of one medium will not kill the other. Gaming will never render Hollywood and big budget films obsolete, and I truly believe at some point, both mediums will figure out how they can interact to maximize their potential. And if these great gaming moments help set up Hollywood and silicon valley for a true merging, I am all about it. And I am not talking about computers being used to make special effects or to use dead actors (they already pretty much do that and it sucks), but more so, games and films interacting in ways only Philip K. Dick could have imagined.
For now, I can safely say that, in my opinion, these five moments from gaming outshine Hollywood in terms of scope and the overall sense of raw emotion (be it awe or sadness) that they instill in all who witness (or partake in) them.Next
I know this has been said before many times, but the opening to the original Bioshock was one of the most awe-inspiring moments I ever had as a gamer. Although we had all been down the proverbial rabbit hole many times before in games, we had never been down it quite so literal as when we took the bathysphere down to Rapture in the opening moments of that stellar game.
From the opening scene with the plane crashing into the ocean, you know this is going to be a ride you will never forget, and the world they weave in Bioshock is just that. For me, Rapture can best be described as one of the most fully realized Wonderlands I had ever seen. Rapture, in all its art deco brilliance, is this beautiful train wreck you just cannot look away from. It is as horrifying as it is captivating, and you find yourself marveling it at instantly, but then that moment is cut short when one of the mutated humans, knows as splicers, attacks your bathysphere in an attempt to get to you and tear you apart with hook hands. And from that moment forth, the game has its proverbial hooks in you and never lets up.
And I will say, I was torn with putting the opening from Bioshock Infinite here, because that filled me with a true sense of wonder, too (until they wanted me to stone that interracial couple). In the end though, I had to go with the original because I had never seen, or experienced, anything quite like it before.
Check it out for yourself in the video below if you haven’t played through the game, it really is quite something.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves: The Opening Scene
I know this seems kind of silly, because we all know the Uncharted series is very much a sort of unofficial Indiana Jones, so to say a game that took inspiration from a movie and then surpassed that movie seems daunting, but as anyone who has been lucky enough to play the opening of this game can tell you, it REALLY is breathtaking, and does an amazing job of imbuing the viewer with a real sense of panic as the scenario unfolds.
For those who have not seen it, the opening of Uncharted 2 features our hero, Nathan Drake, waking up on a train. The kicker here is that the train is hanging off of a cliff, and as if in some cartoon sense of physics, the more we (and Drake) figure this out, the more gravity seems to apply. So while he is very much sitting up when the scene begins, by the end, as the train has fallen further and further, he is actually thrown out of the train and, as you can see above, finds himself in one dilly of a pickle.
It is everything a blockbuster should be, but when was the last time you saw something this impressive on screen, and really, truly believed it? Scenes like this in movies end up looking way too CG now, and any sense of danger drains out for that reason. But when your character is CG too, it just pulls you in that much more. And anyone who wants to argue this with me can just hold this scene up against ANY scene in the most recent Indiana Jones film to see how right I am.Previous Next
God of War III: Titan Battle
You knew one of the God of War games had to be in here, and as much as I ALMOST went with the Poseidon battle, this scene beats it, and for scope, pretty much beats any game ever (no need to bring up Asura’s Wrath to me, I know. Apples and oranges, people). I think the running theme you will see on this list is the fact that, in almost every scene I bring up, the protagonist is facing some kind of mortal danger. Or in this case, insurmountable odds. You are very much a bug going up against the Titan in God Of War III, and you find yourself breathlessly wondering how Kratos (and ultimately, you) are going to get out of this situation.
And honestly, how you get out of it is one of the selling points of the scene. Why? Because in ten seconds time, the impossible becomes possible. Suddenly, the death you were just staring in the face becomes you, and you reap this giant beast’s soul, while destroying its body. Again, when was the last time you were awed by something of this scope in a film? The problem when filmmakers try to do scenes like this is that, once again, it all ends up looking plastic and fake. From the animations to the creature, it just never seems palpably real. And those moments pull you out of the film, because of how fake it all looks.
But here, seeing Kratos almost getting squished between those two giant fingers, you just feel panic. On top of that, how come animations in movies are so clunky and unrealistic, and animation in games is freaking perfect? You watch Frodo fighting the cave troll from Lord of the Rings, and you laugh now. It looks like a PlayStation game. Like the movie you were watching suddenly became Roger Rabbit, filled with animated character. It doesn’t work, and it is another reason why I think gaming is edging ahead. Because, in gaming, it DOES work.
Why can’t current Hollywood films inspire these feelings in us? When we want scope, they give us some shiny, explode-y, Michael Bay shit, and it just doesn’t work.Previous Next
Red Dead Redemption: So Far Away Music Moment
I may catch some heat for this (I am used to that by now), but I honestly believe that Red Dead Redemption is the single greatest game of this gaming generation. It was a perfect game, with every single element adding up to a “perfect storm” of gaming. From the graphics to the storyline to the gameplay, it was the best Western we’ve received since Unforgiven, and it wasn’t even a film.
Thing is, there was one moment when you couldn’t tell that it wasn’t a movie. A moment so cinematic and perfect, you got lost in it. A moment where you truly FELT like the hero, felt like the lost soul trying to find his way home and make up for all the time he lost sinnin’. That moment was in the middle of the game, when you were journeying into Mexico to try to find your old gang and finish them off, and the Jose’ Gonzalez song, So Far Away, started playing.
I swear to you, in all my life, I will never have an opportunity to feel like a cowboy. The world is just too different now. But in that decidedly quiet moment, I felt like it. All you do is ride your horse into Mexico, in real time. No one jumps out of the bushes to rob you, you are not dragging anyone behind you. No wolves are chasing you. It is just you and your horse, slow riding into Mexico, with an absolutely amazing song as your soundtrack, and there is no experience quite like it in all of gaming.
If you look at most of the moments on this list, they are epic and on a massive scale, and the reason this scene worked so well because for once in gaming, it was the opposite. It was a sort of intermission to all the killing you had done so far. And it gave you a moment to marvel at just how well constructed and well executed this game was. And I swear, in that four minute section, I could feel my horse’s hooves hitting the dirt road under me. I could smell the open air, and feel the bus, buzzing around me. It was unforgettable. And I know there are a great deal of quite moments in films that work effectively (think Drive), but for me, few have captured the feeling of what they were trying to convey quite as concisely as the Far Away moment in Red Dead Redemption.Previous Next
The Darkness: Jenny’s Death
Bringing it way back here, but was anyone else as pleasantly surprised by The Darkness as I was? If so, don’t play the sequel.
Anyway, The Darkness was a game developed by Vin Diesel’s video game company (I kid you not), and was based off a comic book of the same name. It was about a young man named Jackie Estacado, who, long story short, gets possessed by a demon and goes on a killing spree to avenge his girlfriend, Jenny, who his mob boss uncle executed in front of him.
The key element that makes this scene work is, in an odd twist, there is a moment when you sit and watch a movie with Jenny earlier in the game, and there is just something so realistic about it. It feels like a moment you would spend with your significant other, watching an old movie, curled up the couch (and on a funny side note, if you stay there and watch it long enough in real time with her, you get an achievement). So you bond with this character.
And then your fat pig on an uncle (who I like to call Uncle F**ker), blows her brains out right in front of you, and you can’t do anything to stop him.
I know there are PLENTY of scenes in popular fiction where major characters die, but somehow, this felt different. What is great is her death sets up the second half of the game, when you have all your powers, and you feel GENUINE rage as you rip all these people apart, trying to get to your uncle and destroy him for what he took from you.
But still, that single moment, when he leans her against the glass and blows her brains everywhere, it is an emotionally manipulative, gut-wrenching moment, but it is one that sort of always stays with you. And outside of Michael Haneke, very few directors are willing to “go there” when it comes to pulling a move like this, but as this and the last game on the list proves, not all the scenes need to be giant water cooler moments for them to surpass Hollywood. In this case, it just human emotion that wins out.Previous