Commenting on the critics with Simon Columb…
Steven Poole writes for The Guardian on March 11th about the financial success of the gaming industry…
“The fastest-selling cultural product in history was created by people you’ve probably never heard of. While this year’s Oscars honoured films in which the movie business sweetly congratulates itself on its own birth – The Artist, Hugo – the most dollar-hoovering entertainment release ever is not a film, still less an album; it’s a video game. Coming out last autumn, Modern Warfare 3 – a blockbuster military shooter made by a Californian game studio called Infinity Ward – took just 16 days to gross $1bn, beating by one day the previous record set by a film about blue people in space.”
The article is fascinating as it delves deeper into the hugely successful brand of Rockstar games – the company behind Grand Theft Auto. Read the full article here.
Clearly the gaming industry is growing – financially, the film ‘industry’ ($87bn) still supersedes the game-grosses, but comparing ticket sales to game purchases, the box-office cashes in $32bn, whilst games are bringing in a whopping $56bn. In fact, taking the ticket sales out of the film industry income, we are left with merely $55bn, accounting for what I assume are DVD, Blu-Ray and download sales of films. Still $1bn less than games.
You could use this as part of an argument against cinema and film – and how games are taking over the territory. I do not believe this is the case.
I am not a hardcore gamer but I enjoy a limited few. Currently, harking back to my teenage – and younger – days of gaming, my most recent purchases were Sonic Generations and GoldenEye: Reloaded for Playstation 3, but outside of this, the only brand which automatically perks my interest are Rockstar Games. Grand Theft Auto games I know I will purchase in due course, whilst LA Noire shall be purchased … when I complete the sprawling, epic game of Red Dead Redemption.
But therein lies the problem – games no longer require an afternoon to complete. Computer games seem to continue endlessly – almost as if the longer the game, the better. I remember in the days of Sega vs. Nintendo, you spent your Saturday trying to complete Super Mario Bros. You would try once, and die and then try again – no saving, no memory card. You had three lives and once you lost them, it was all over. Even with Playstation, one of my favourite games Metal Gear Solid could be completed in a day if you knew what you were doing – and if you didn’t, the focus and attention was on details – rather than length of story – and you could complete it surprisingly quick.
Andy Warhol’s Sleep (a video showing a friend of Warhol sleeping) is 5 hours 2 minutes long. Empire, depicting the Empire State Building during the night, is 485 minutes long. My personal favourite video-installation art piece recently is Christian Marclay’s The Clock, a full 24 hours of cut-up footage from cinema and TV depicting the current time. But when I go to an art gallery and see these art pieces, I do not stay there for the duration – I might stay for a few minutes; maybe in Marclay’s case, I may revisit a little, but even art pieces only require a certain amount of time.
This is what is so incredible about cinema – you can appreciate a work of art that also depicts a clear narrative within the space of (in most cases) two hours.
Computer games eat away at hours at a time, demanding your attention for entire days and evenings and achieving very little. I know how beautiful a landscape is on Red Dead Redemption and I can understand how playful and quirky Little Big Planet is – but it gets to a point when you ‘get’ it. Much like Warhol’s films and Marclay’s ‘clock’, you understand the art piece and appreciate the skill and craftsmanship behind it, but if you are going to play the game for tens-of-hours more, you have to be truly invested in the story. And be happy for that story to play out in replacement of watching a film – or multiple films.
Gaming will always be around, and I am sure that I will buy Grand Theft Auto V when it is released later this year, but will I complete it? Maybe. You have to be a pretty dedicated gamer to happily spend hours-upon-hours playing these games – and you have to have the time, and often the isolation, to be able to fully involve yourself in these games and the universe they create. From Poole’s article, he notes how:
“His vision for the future is like this, only more so: “I want to be playing in an even more realistic GTA-style environment,” Jones says, “with 1,000 other real players in the city.” And so the impish simulation of antisocial behaviour promises to become ever more sociable.“
This means gaming will become more a social networking experience – rather than an art piece in a gallery, or a film in a cinema. The comparison with either is redundant already.