I think everyone understands that video-games are evolving into a form of expression; they’re already there really. I think if you ask people if they’ve ever been touched by a game more than “I shot a guy, wuz fun.” the answer will be a yes. The industry is galloping at breakneck pace to finally enter the playing field of film and literature, to sit at the table of artistic merit and enjoy a good drink of meaningfulness. It’s comfortable to know that in the next twenty years, we have a potential to shape an entire medium and create that bedrock of meaningful experiences that film and literature enjoy. I want to be a part of that, I have ideas and theories that I want to put into practise, maybe they’ll be made and maybe they won’t. The fact is once we widen our scope and get bigger and riskier, the more our profits will explode.
On this subject then, I feel that perhaps the Assassin’s Creed series excels at bridging ancient history with video-game demographics. There’s certainly a wide gap between intellectuals who study and enjoy history and gamers themselves; but I feel that Assassin’s Creed (especially 2) excels at being completely authentic in terms of landscapes. The architecture truly is beautiful at times, and scaling the Colosseum in Brotherhood is now a highlight of my gaming life. Adding the spice of context gives a bite to video-games, it makes them feel more real but there’s aspect that’s still disjointed, projecting ourselves into an entirely fictive context with realistic elements to keep ourselves still hooked. I’ll probably write one day about realism versus immersion, but for now, lets dive into another topic I’ve wanted to explore for a long, long time.
If games are to become respected as a medium, we need names behind our bedrock titles. Fumito Ueda, Johnathon Blow, Warren Spector, Gabe Newell; I only know these names because I have an actual love for the medium. I grew up with it and it’s a natural curiosity to know who’s feeding me all of this enrichment, unfortunately this doesn’t mean much when it comes to selling. As the sales of Brutal Legend showed, having a designer’s name on the box (namely Tim Schafer) doesn’t add any credibility to an average gamer’s point of view. Although having ‘Jame’s Cameron’s…’ on your box definitely helps, but he’s a guy from a completely different medium. We don’t have any ‘games people’ who we can depend on to add credibility to titles or anyone we can refer back on. Yes, Schafer went on a mainstream talk show and was his general awesome self; to show people that we’re not all little basement dwellers… but I doubt it shifted sales. We need all sorts of people to be commended for their work, as it is in film; directors, writers, actors, cinematographers and so on and so forth.
I’m not necessarily saying “We need an Oscars, yo.” that would be very cute but I do feel like we need some names behind the games. Hey that rhymes, yo, I is from the streets freestyling like a hooker actually wearing make-up for once, or a middle-aged parent literally juggling her kids and deciding to throw them into a pool of liquid steel instead. Names behind games will add credibility to the medium and give audiences people to generally idolise, which I’m doing already, in my book Up, Down, Left, Right, I start each essay off with a quote from a game designer or something with credibility behind their name. If every person did this then we’d be a legitimized artistic medium, with a full potential waiting at our door to be made love to… but unfortunately there’s a few obstacles in our way.
In fact, let’s concentrate on a name behind a game. A voice actor. Think Nolan North, think… actually that’s all I can… errrr….
Are we lacking with voice actors in video-games who have credibility? Of course not. We have voice actors with big diverse mediums in which they work in; I know that most of the cast of Bioshock are actually theatre actors/actresses. So, having a big pool of people who are immensely talented to get behind games is going to help us in the long run. I’m not talking famous people who are talented, just people who are talented, and I’m not saying the celebrity cast of New Vegas aren’t talented, but they have a following they can go to. They have people who spot their name in the casting list of New Vegas and decide to pick the game up, but seeing Nolan North’s or Armin Shimerman pop up means absolutely nothing to the ‘average’ browser.
In fact, let’s put this in perspective. Video-game award shows are all show and no games, in my opinion, and they’re often insulting to the medium. I won’t comment on the Spike VGAs, but let’s take a look at the nominations for “Best performance by a human male” which I think is a odd choice of words.
They’re all ‘celebrities’, chosen to show at the show; not for their talent. This is a very worrying thing when not a single one of those people are actual ‘game voice actors’. I mean the type who play protagonists over a twenty hour experience, such as Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. I’m not one for the whole ‘player character talks, kills immersion’ thing, but I’m kind of okay when the player character is speaking on my behalf. Ezio’s voice actor certainly gets that across, and the second Assassin’s Creed was over 25 hours long, he’s spoken into a microphone for practically 45 hours… wow. You could consider him a well built voice in video-games, but not a nomination to be seen to his name. You will never see Nolan North either, because he’s not a celebrity and games are craving it. The Spike VGAs are watched by gamers, and more gamers are attracted when they see the likes of the above get a nomination.
This isn’t to insult the above names. Gary Oldman as Reznov is the best accent voice acting I have ever heard, ever. I also think Martin Sheen is a credible name, as is John Cleese; they had talent that you can find in film to games. It’s fine, but you can’t justify Fillion’s nomination as he was in the game for practically five minutes of dialogue. I’m going to complain about Black Ops again, Sam Worthington is the most unconvincing voice actors I have ever heard, ever, in a video-game. I want to punch him.
All of them are great voice actors, but you’ve probably never heard of them.
So, how do we combat this? Developers, listen up. It’s fine having celebrities in your games, but it’s not fine when they’re advertised everywhere. Get behind your talent, hire people who have worked on other video-games and not those who are there just for the paycheck. If you want then hire a celebrity that has had past video-game experience, add more flavour to them and give them a place to work within. Gary Oldman was in World at War and returned for Black Ops, he was great the first time but I’ve never heard him with such massive conviction than in some of Black Ops’ key scenes.
Why not, in game trailers, put the main cast and designers at the end of the trailer instead of it strictly being gameplay/CGI/transition cards? Wouldn’t that add a little credibility to the outsiders who see the trailers?
I’m rambling here, maybe I should’ve said something else about Brotherhood, but I haven’t been deep into it enough to justify another sort of topic. In fact, I don’t own it yet myself, playing it for around five hours at a friends house just today. All of this might justify two corners on this game, with another one on Brotherhood being more in depth. What do you think?