The Edmond Sun

Opinion

September 23, 2013

Does 'Grand Theft Auto V' mean the end of Hollywood?

There's a good chance you've heard: "Grand Theft Auto V," the latest installment of the storied video game franchise, took in over $1 billion in its first week. That's more than any movie released this year, with the exception of "Iron Man 3" (which happens to be the fifth highest-grossing movie of all time). At this rate, "GTA V" could be a nontrivial contributor to the U.S. gross domestic product. It's a cultural event. Even Apple should be impressed.

It's not a stretch to think that the people who didn't go to the movies this summer might have said, "you know what, I'm skipping a few and using the cash for a different kind of blockbuster."

In that case, the most interesting number to keep in mind may be 100 — the approximate number of hours of gameplay that "GTA V" reportedly offers. For those diligent and conscientious enough to explore all the side quests, excursions and games- within-the-game, it provides weeks of entertainment.

That makes the $60 retail price a bargain: 100 hours of gameplay at $0.60 an hour. Compare that with the price of admission to a movie, even a two-and-a-half hour megaproduction. The other advantage for video games — driving the usage cost down even further — is that buyers get to keep the game.

So, could the multiple box-office disappointments last summer reflect the beginning of a shift that goes well beyond blockbuster fatigue?

There's little reason to think that movies and video games couldn't continue to co-exist. But if audiences are becoming overly familiar with Hollywood's version of the three-act- structure and if games continue to grow as a form of narrative entertainment, it's tantalizing to think that the next few years or decades might bring some more serious attempts at experimentation and cross-pollination.

It's already been tried. Most of the results, however, have been marketing masquerading as "interactive storytelling." Despite efforts in both industries to find some creative alchemy, most attempts, though admirable for the effort, fall short of true invention. Movies made from games, games made from movies, movies and games released simultaneously with added content end up being less than the sum of their parts, more like two conventional forms of entertainment smushed together and repackaged as a new product.

Movies and video games both take place in a larger, common universe of possible narratives. But are they fundamentally incompatible? Could anything interesting ever emerge from recombining the DNA of the two?

That's where a game such as "GTA V" breaks through. It's tempting to think of it as an open-ended movie: it's written and directed by storytellers skilled in the cinematic form and produced by an expert group of visual designers. In that sense it feels like a big movie production. As the scale and complexity of these games increase — and as our ability to simulate and render nuance and emotion and ambiguity increases — these games are starting to verge on something entirely new. Whatever one might feel about the storyline of "Grand Theft Auto V," it is hard to deny that it is pushing the boundary of the form.

Open world games have come a long way in a short time, but as impressive as they are, they're still operated on rails — theme-park rides rather than free-driving cars. "GTA V" points the way to games with a narrated openness in which players wouldn't be presented with options so much as they would have tools to model their experience. Giving players the ability to create their own stories within the connected world of a larger story creates a natural, social evolution within the system. In this sense, "Grand Theft Auto V" and "Minecraft" show us what may be coming when the mediums we have now are reimagined as virtual worlds that can grow and evolve over time.

If anyone is going to invent a new form of entertainment from this model, she's probably 15 years old right now, unbound by the conventions and assumptions of received forms. She's growing up in a world in which a significant number of her interactions with other people are online (for better or worse). She consumes serialized programming in 13-hour blocks and doesn't really distinguish between TV shows, movies or Internet videos. She consumes these stories on her phone, tablet and laptop whenever she wants, a few minutes at a time or maybe three hours at a stretch. She makes calls on her computer and surfs the web on her television. She makes no distinction between screens, small or large.

Maybe she'll be the first auteur of this new kind of entertainment — an environment with infinite horizons. She may imagine a platform where players are both the creator and the narrator, able to write the game as they play through it. Perhaps she'll create the first Great American Possibility Space.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Why poverty across the world matters to Americans

    A child starving in South Sudan should matter to Americans. That was the message delivered last week by Nancy Lindborg, whose job at the U.S. Agency for International Development is to lead a federal bureau spreading democracy and humanitarian assistance across the world.
    That world has reached a critical danger zone, with three high-level crises combining military conflict with humanitarian catastrophes affecting millions of innocents in Syria, the South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
    But back to that child.

    April 18, 2014

  • Government leadership complicit in overfilling prisons

    One of the thorniest problems facing any society is the question of what to do with transgressors. Obviously, the more complicated a culture becomes, the more factors come into play in trying to figure out what to do with those who choose not to “play by the rules.”

    April 18, 2014

  • My best days are ones normal people take for granted

    It is a weekend for working around the house. My fiancee, Erin, and I have the baby’s room to paint and some IKEA furniture to assemble. I roll out of bed early — 10:30 — and get into my wheelchair. Erin is already making coffee in the kitchen.
    “I started the first wall,” she says. “I love that gray.” Erin never bugs me about sleeping late. For a few months after I was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, I often slept 15 hours a day. The doctors said my body needed to heal. It must still be healing because I hardly ever see 8 a.m. anymore.

    April 18, 2014

  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014

Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
     View Results