Editorial: Hollywood Needs To Stop Blaming Games
It never fails. Every time some Hollywood bigwig stands up and tries to explain why box office revenues are down again, they just have to mention that the video game industry is "taking away" many long-time theater-goers. They don't necessarily say it's the gaming industry's fault, but it's almost always phrased as an excuse. Well, I'm going to lift the very thin veil on this little mystery, Hollywood. Just so you get it through your thick skulls, once and for all.
Nobody is holding a gun to someone's head and telling them how to spend their leisure time. People of all ages are flocking to gaming of their own accord, and there's a damn good set of reasons for this phenomenon. First of all, the experience of going to the movies has drastically fallen in quality over the past three decades. Why? Because most theaters outside of IMAX tend to use the same damn equipment they were using three decades ago. With so many people in ownership of HDTVs these days, the comparison is embarrassing for the theater: back in the '70s and '80s, the theaters were the best. Now, you can easily have superior picture and sound quality with a decently-priced home entertainment setup, and the advent of Blu-Ray widens the gap. And yet, movie ticket prices haven't reflected this in the least, and that's the first part of this depressing equation for Hollywood.
Next up- movies suck. Yes. They suck. Sure, there are a few good movies here and there, and I know for a fact some very impressive films have released over the past few years. I'm not going to deny this. But their popularity has fallen like a stone; it used to be that the Oscar winners every year were also most of the more popular titles of the year. Now, the Oscars are loaded with plenty of films that have gone unnoticed by the mainstream, which is further proof that the mainstream masses are dumber than a stone and will reward the worst pile of crap. Comedies are painfully insulting. Dramas are on the steady decline, unless you can find the scant few that turn out to be truly rewarding (and they won't be blockbusters, I promise you that). Special effects and CGI sell tickets. Intelligent scripts do not. Mindless action and sex appeal sells tickets. Well-developed characters and excellent dialogue do not.
So perhaps it's not necessarily Hollywood's fault, as they're only trying to sell movies to a population that's on the downward spiral in terms of intelligence. That's one way to go. Or, you could take my argument: personally, I'm sick of being insulted by movies I would've been insulted by when I was 8 years old. I'm sick of the poor quality of movie theaters. I'm sick of the pandering. On the other hand, I become very excited when I think about the upward rise of gaming and the possibilities that loom large on the horizon. I think of some top-quality scripts ('cough' MGS4 'cough') that have made many movie scripts appear terrible in comparison. No, I'm not saying the best game stories can compete with the best movie stories. I'm really not. What I am saying is that games have made very large strides in this area while movies have gone backwards. Pretty soon, the gap will become so small, they'll have to start nominating game scripts for "Best Original Screenplay" at the Oscars.
Hollywood should be downright embarrassed. And the gaming industry isn't going to apologize for putting out a superior entertainment product. They're not going to apologize for making leap after leap, generation after generation, while the movie business remains in this incredibly steep dive. I do not hate movies. I happen to enjoy them. I'm one of the people Hollywood should be able to snag on a routine basis, and at one point, they kinda did. But everything has gotten so bad, I have to search through independent film markets in order to find something even remotely appealing and not insulting. So Hollywood needs to step up and do something; prove to their fans they've lost that there's still a reason to watch movies. Games are far better, and people will turn to those games in order to have a better entertainment experience. They're doing this of their own volition. They're weighing the rewards and consequences, and people know what they'll enjoy. It's not...that...difficult.
1/23/2009 Ben Dutka