Separation of Film & Gaming

Modern storytelling exists under the umbrella of film. For more than a hundred years, film has been the American audience’s most culturally significant way of connecting with stories, more so than literature or even television; as opposed to video games which are very young in the world of art and storytelling. Though the gaming industry has now financially become the largest aspect of the entertainment industry – surpassing film and music quite handily – in the eyes of critics and most of its audience, gaming still lags behind films in the quality and presentation of storytelling. Throughout this adolescent phase of video games, we have consistently seen attempts at emulating movies. Read any review about a game like Mass Effect or Uncharted and you will probably run into the word “cinematic”. Why are video games constantly compared to movies? Are video games doomed to live in the shadow of film, or can they forge their own unique storytelling voice?

The comparison between film and video games comes from the way in which modern audiences consume stories. Film has taught each of us the basic building blocks of story and story structure – heroes that take action and go on an adventure, overcome obstacles and learn about themselves, and a conclusion that allows our heroes to achieve their goals, having changed. Of course, these ideas are much older than film; they are as old as humanity. However, the 20th century was dominated by film in the arena of storytelling and has thus influenced audiences the most. The men and women who create the games we all enjoy were influenced by these films as well. Without Star Wars, we may not get Mass Effect. Without Indiana Jones, we may not get Tomb Raider or Uncharted. Without Alien, I’m assuming we might not have Alien: Isolation. Is it possible that these games exist without their film counterparts? Yes. However, not only are the influences clear while playing, but the ideas and themes found in some of these films laid the groundwork for the games to expand upon. Movies and video games are similar in their most basic form – visual presentation to create an entertaining and hopefully emotional experience for an audience. Because of this, the influence of film on video games is neither surprising nor necessarily bad. The extent of which that influence reaches is where we begin to see video games succeed or fail.

Without Indiana Jones, we might not have Indiana-Lara Croft fanfiction! (oh god) Image from comicvine.com

Without Indiana Jones, we might not have Indiana-Lara Croft fanfiction! (oh god) Image from comicvine.com

Despite the positive influences of film, the negative aspects are clearly visible as well. Far too often a gamer will reach moments in a game where control is ripped away from us and we watch a video of our character doing super awesome things we would love to be a part of, but instead are now regulated to the role of spectator. Cut scenes in video games, while not always bad, undercut the very thing that makes video games unique – interactivity. That’s the major element of gaming: being able to thrive in worlds and circumstances we may not experience in real life. We’re not just watching someone else’s life unfold while playing, we’re making choices and making moves that make us feel responsible for what’s happening. Other times we’ll see video games attempting to tell a story in a way that mirrors film, despite games typically being much longer, resulting in missions and quests that feel like filler or unimportant to the real story. Unless otherwise stated, gameplay should be the focus of a game, not the ninth song on a twelve song album. Gameplay is the pre-released solos, so we need something with which we want to engage. Any time a game developer attempts to make players feel like they are in a movie, they fundamentally undercut the unique aspects of gaming as a medium – immersion and interactivity.

Games like Mass Effect and The Walking Dead have begun to capitalize on the emotional impact you can have on an audience when you allow them choice, creating personal connections with the characters in the game. While these games were certainly not the first to attempt this, they are currently the ones doing it best and allowing gamers a form of immersion that most do not. When we are forced to choose between Kaidan or Ashley or between fighting a zombie horde or running away, we become immersed in a way that other art forms can’t offer. We are allowed to move from a passive observer to an active participant, giving us an unprecedented level of interactivity. Games become more than just something we consume, but a unique collaboration between the developers and their audience.

How do you choose?! Image by Ethaclane on Diviantart.

How do you choose?! Image by Ethaclane on Deviantart.

Advances in technology will be a key partner in the future of video game storytelling. Oculus Rift and other virtual reality (VR) companies are vying to bring a brand new experience to gamers around the world. VR gets us even closer to full immersion, a step that will again allow the gaming industry to highlight what makes gaming unique from other art forms. Allowing gamers to stand in the shoes of a hero rather than merely controlling one breaks down another wall that stands between an audience and the art they are experiencing. We will fight dragons, pilot spaceships, leap out of buildings, shoot zombies, form relationships…everything that film and TV merely present to the audience we will have the chance to actually perform. The possibilities are truly endless.

A .gif from the Oscar winning film, "Birdman".

A .gif from the Oscar winning film, “Birdman”. 

We are all watching the video game industry grow up, and as with most things that go through that awkward, pimply phase, there have been and will continue to be growing pains. However, we are also witnessing some of the most exciting and groundbreaking projects that the video game industry has ever put forth. Thanks to advances in technology and the creative minds now flocking to video games as a medium for storytelling, the time has come for video games to emerge as the pioneers of a new kind of storytelling. A new wave that allows for an interactive experience with the audience, creating engagement at a level that is impossible for any other art form to achieve. Video games can acknowledge their roots in film and, firmly grasping the lessons learned from that medium, move the idea of modern storytelling forward in ways that have never been imagined.

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Tucker Poindexter is a guest writer for Ignite Gaming Blog. He is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago whose passions lie in directing and writing for film. For more writing, witty commentary, and a bit of sarcasm, check him out @TuckDeanPoin on twitter.

Own The Night

Last Friday, Ignite held “Own The Night”, a Dying Light launch event. With over 200 participants coming through and over 50 separate games played, I would say that people were…dying to play it.

To start the celebrations, we added a few thematic elements to our space to create an eerie feeling throughout the facility: red dimmed lighting, chains hanging from trusses, our pod signs and desktops were Dying Light themed, all while the adrenaline pumping soundtrack blared over the house speakers. We wanted to the attendees to feel like they were in an abandoned building in Harran.

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Red lights dimmed, chains hung…now we wait…

For the main event, we focused on the Be The Zombie game mode. In this mode, four human players go head to head versus one player as the zombie – called the Night Hunter. While you might be saying, “That doesn’t sound fair at all…” the Night Hunter just so happens to be zombie Spiderman. The infected swings from building to building with fleshy tendrils shooting from his hands. It also has an array of grenades, such as an EMP-like phosphorescent grenade that disables the players’ anti-zombie UV flashlight and globular grenades that attract zombies, similar to Left 4 Dead’s Boomer vomit.

Whether they played co-op or as the zombie, everyone was having a blast! Some groups of four came in ready to take on the zombie, but solo players and smaller pairs united to take on the infected as a team. We even saw a group of friends travel over an hour from Naperville and a handful of individuals off of Meetup.com, well, met up. For us, having events is important because they do exactly that: bring the gaming community together. It’s events like these that make me realize the thrill of gamers coming together and enjoying themselves; even if it’s a game that everyone’s learning for the first time.

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Full house! Teamwork vs Spidey Senses…who will win?! Just like on Oprah, everyone!

We gave away a bunch of prizes as well! Who ever won, either the four person team or the zombie, received a super extremely rare (not really) raffle ticket that was added to the pot in order to win the night’s grand prize, one of three Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 graphics cards! By the end of the night, many people had won multiple times, some even walking away with dozens of tickets. We had other prizes that participants could score too, from t-shirts and mousepads to copies of the game. The prizes didn’t stop at the door, as participants also had a chance to win a GeForce GTX 980 or two GeForce GTX 960’s online through Alienware Arena instant win codes.

nVIDIA graphics cards, the big prize of the night!

nVIDIA graphics cards, the big prize of the night!

For everyone to come out and just have a fun time means a lot to me, and to Ignite. At the end of the day, I really felt as if this event connected differently with our community. For starters, it was our first game launch event! We worked directly with the developers and emphasis was placed on discovering the game’s mechanics, surviving a Night Hunter’s assault, and playing cooperatively with friends. If you’ve been following our events over the years, you’ll know that we typically focus on intensely competitive games with high stake payouts. I really liked the pace, feel, and response we’ve received from this launch party. My hope is that you’ll continue to see an eclectic variety of events around games that might not have the most obvious competitive scene…you know, throw in some curve balls and get everyone hyped up! In the months to come, we’ll do what we can to really broaden our spectrum by introducing more games into our arsenal and coming up with fresh ideas for events.

For those that don’t know me, my name is Chris and I am the Gaming Events Manager here at Ignite Gaming Lounge. Gaming is my passion and I love interacting with the community by putting together fun and exciting events for everyone to enjoy. I’ve got my eyes on the global gaming scene and would love to bring the growth we’ve been seeing as an industry right to our backyard. Hit me up at Chris@ignitegl.com, or twitter @TheStormbeard for any and all your gaming questions, events suggestions, or if you just want to talk about whether Han shot first.

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Dying Light Launch Party – What to Expect

If you’re already planning on attending, on the fence about it, or have plans but wish you could be there – here’s what’s in store for our Dying Light launch party tomorrow!

Background on NVIDIA and Ignite

Last September, our friends from NVIDIA, you know, that one company that makes those ultra powerful GeForce graphic cards, tasked us to bring the Game 24 experience to Chicago. It was a world wide celebration of PC gaming that took place in Los Angeles, Shanghai, Stockholm, London, and Chicago. There was a 24-hour stream that featured a Dota 2 tournament, product announcements, world records being set, live PC modding, and much more. We had the privilege to bring part of that celebration to Chicago and it was fun. as. hell. If you missed it, heres how it went:

In the end, everyone had such a good time that NVIDIA challenged us to bring that same experience to the Dying Light launch.

What is Dying Light?

For those that don’t know, NVIDIA works alongside game studios by providing them with tools and software to develop the cutting edge visuals we see in games today. This time they teamed up with Techland, the creators of Dead Island, to bring us Dying Light. If you haven’t played it yet, Dying Light is a first-person action survival game. The game is set in a vast favela-like city called Harran. A mysterious epidemic has ravished the city and you’re sent on a mission to find out the cause of the infection. To survive, you have weapons (which you can scavenge or create) and parkour levels of mobility. Think Assassin’s Creed meets Dead Island caked with some insanely brutal zombie slaying.

Dying Light Screenshot

Off with its head! (Photo cred: http://www.vg247.com)

It’s exhilarating, fast paced, and down right fun. Especially since you get to pair up with up to 4 friends to play the story. On top of that, there is a mode where you can play as a zombie Night Hunter and when night falls you can invade players games and wreak havoc. The game is beautiful and the mechanics are smooth. It makes jumping off a zombies head and piercing another zombie with your sword thrilling through and through. We have it on PC and you should totally come try it out.

The Launch Party

If there is anytime to try it, tomorrow (February 13th) is the time. The event is going to feature open play PCs, casual competitions, complimentary grub, and swag. All free. The party starts at 6pm and goes till 2am.

OTN schedule

Scheduled Events

You’ll be able to play the game at your own pace, join up with friends to take on the campaign together, or play as a zombie to invade games of players around you. Each time you play you’ll receive a raffle ticket for chances to win tees, mousepads, in-game content, Dying Light games, and one of three GeForce GTX 960’s.

Come out and crush some zombies with us!

The event is free to enter. Complimentary food available whiles supplies lasts. The event will be recorded and all participants will be required to sign a release form. Guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

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