Mediums of entertainment have only been able to withstand the test of time by experimenting in new forms and creating sub-genres that makes the medium more accessible to a wider range of consumers. In comparison to other forms of entertainment, the cinema is a new form of entertainment only being around for a few hundred years and only being classified as an art form for a few decades, compared to that of literature or art which has been around for a few millennia. With the rise of free internet culture and online streaming services, modern day cinema is dying, this has been the case for the last decade, with the constant influx of reboots and remakes, these large “blockbuster films” attempting to capitalise on the new fad that is nostalgia is slowly destroying the franchises that we once loved. Year after year we see 70’s, 80’s and 90’s classics dragged down with the dying media that is Hollywood. It is clear that Hollywood needs to adapt, it needs to evolve into something new and something fresh in order to survive. The constant creation of disposable films rather than creating long lasting masterpieces is causing Hollywood to constantly keep adapting beloved franchises in order to stay relevant and profitable. With every generation the attention span gets shorter and shorter to the point where entertainment such as memes will have a shelf-life of a few weeks at best, compared to that when memes first started in 2010 where they would last for months even years. In an interview with The Guardian in 2019, Philipp Lorenz-Spreen who worked on a study on how the attention span of society is slowly shortening stated that “Content is increasing in volume, which exhausts our attention and our urge for ‘newness’ which causes us to collectively switch between topics more regularly.'' In contrast to cinema, another “new” medium of entertainment is that of video games. Video Games are able to tell long and complex storylines, similarly to TV, a known advisory to cinema, and develop characters in a way that cinema can’t simply do due to runtime limitations. As video games and video game technology advance its clear to see a parallel between cinema and video games, and how the future of the two will probably coincide.
As mentioned previously, in order to survive, entertainment has to adapt and evolve with the current culture. Every year, we get a new better way to view cinema, be it with higher resolution screens, more realistic audio and even hyper realistic visual effects. It is obvious that as time goes on, cinema will become more and more digitised in order to create crazy fictional settings in a hyper sense of realism. Cinema isn’t the first medium to evolve into hyper realism. French theatre practitioner, Antonin Artaud, also believed in this sense of hyper realism. His ideologies, originally birthed in surrealism, soon evolved into what he titled “Theatre of Cruelty”. Artaud grew tired of traditional theatre; he saw the world around him and the theatre in dire need of changing as they had become conditioned by society. Artaud attempted to alter theatre in numerous ways, one of his conventions was that Artaud wanted to bridge the gap between audience members and the play; making the audience another part of the story. In his collection of manifestos titled “Theatre and its Double” (1938: 96) Artaud wrote “We abolish the stage and the auditorium and replace them by a single site, without partition or barrier of any kind... A direct communication will be re-established between the spectator and the spectacle… from the fact that the spectator, placed in the middle of the action, is engulfed and physically affected by it.” Video games are able to adhere to this ideology of placing the audience member into the action. As Video game technology has advanced, with the use of virtual reality, a form of technology that can transform the world around the user into the virtual world; placing them in the middle of the action. It excites the player in a way not known by other mediums of entertainment. Allowing the player to become one with the story heightens their sense of watching the unknown and inadvertently heightening the primal ideology of voyeurism. Voyeurism as a hole is why cinema and TV are so popular, allowing the viewer to watch into another character’s life, seeing aspects of lives and stories that would usually be hidden away from the spectator. Laura Mulvey, a British feminist, confirms that this deep passion that mankind has for wanting to watch these hidden lives, she states “The cinema satisfies a primordial wish for pleasurable looking… Here, curiosity and the wish to look intermingle with a fascination with the likeness and recognition… the relationship between the human form and its surroundings” (Laura Mulvey 1999: 836). Films such as “Hardcore Henry” (2015) the world’s first First Person POV feature film, excite this sense of being centralised in the action. Compared to that of traditional cinema where the camera would be a tool to allow the spectator to watch the action from afar rather than be centralised in it. Virtual Reality and cinema are already starting to coexist, with short cinematic VR experiences being accessible for everyone on YouTube; VR experiences such as “Invasion!” (2016) a short-animated VR experience that ended up being an award-winning Emmy winner in 2017.
Another way that cinema is breaking that partition between the audience and the action, is with the rising trend of choose your own ending stories. In the past decade, video games have introduced a new way of storytelling to the mainstream. By allowing the player to make decisions that affect the overall arc of the story, introducing multiple endings, choices that can change the characters present or even the location of the story it gives the player complete control. Games such as “Life is Strange” (2015), “Telltale’s The Walking Dead” (2012) even open world games such as “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” (2011) allow players to complete story arcs as they wish. With games like this on the rise, it wasn’t too long after that cinema had started to create similar projects to that of choose your own ending stories. In 2019, YouTuber Markiplier released a short film called “A Heist with Markiplier” an interactive cinematic experience where the spectator follows Markiplier in order to complete a heist. What is special about this is that “A Heist with Markiplier” (2019) is the most ambitious choose your own ending film; with over 34 different endings. Even more mainstream companies like Netflix have started jumping on this trend releasing “Black Mirror Bandersnatch” (2018). This sense of controlling a character to do as you please, Laura Mulvey once again references something similar with this with ego ideals and how “the other demands identification of the ego with the object on the screen through the spectator’s fascination and recognition of his like.” (837) This ego ideal references how the voyeuristic nature of the spectator extends to that of wanting to see themselves not as they are but as they want to be. This correlates perfectly with the ideologies of choose your own ending stories, and VR experiences as the spectator can now transform themselves into being someone they are not.
Whilst films have started experimenting with adapting video games into cinema, the same can also be said for video games. The prime example of this is “Quantum Break” (2016). “Quantum Break” decided to focus heavily on the cinematic side of the game. At the end of each level depending on the choices made throughout the level a 30 minute live action episode played developing the plot and character arcs further. Throughout time, TV shows have had an edge on cinema by being able to dive deeper into story arcs and expand on aspects that film would have to rush over. Video Games have this edge on film and TV as they are able to go deeper than both. When creating a hybrid of the two, the level of character attachment by the player is increased significantly with a plethora of story and context, grounding the characters and making them more appealing to the spectator: once again by voyeuristically uncovering deep and hidden parts of the characters. This level of bridging, between the virtual world and the real world is very similar to an aspect of postmodernism known as hyperreality. Hyperreality is the inability to distinguish between that of a virtual world and that of real life. “To dissimulate is to pretend not to have what one has. To simulate is to feign to have what one doesn't have. One implies a presence, the other an absence. But it is more complicated than that because simulating is not pretending” (Baudrillard 1981: 4) It’s interesting to see that this sense of hyperreality being created throughout “Quantum Break”, using a hybrid of reality and virtual reality, is parallel to that of modern cinema. This is perfectly encapsulated in Spielberg’s adaptation of “Ready Player One” (2018). In which the story revolves around a dilapidated real world and that of the Virtual known as The Oasis. Throughout the film there are constant references to that of how the characters are losing their sense of reality and escaping into the new reality, the virtual world.
As video game technology and cinema technology improves, filmmakers and visual effect artists will utilise this in order to try and simulate that of hyperreality. In recent films, they have even been able to shoot scenes with fully CG environments, using VR headsets to place virtual cameras and even recreate CG characters for the actors have unfortunately passed away. This inevitably brings up an ethical dilemma of recreating dead actors. In late 2019, Filmmakers Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh secured the rights to digitally recreate the deceased James Dean. In his article on the matter, Paul Jones writes “and the sheer arrogance of the words “we decided on James Dean”, as if he is an ingredient to be picked off a supermarket shelf “ (2019) highlights how many are frustrated with the filmmakers choice to capitalise off of a deceased actor, a blatant lack of compassion does however highlight how cinema and video games both are trying to experiment with the use of hyperreality. “One has never said better how much ''humanism, ''normality”, ‘quality of life' were nothing but the vicissitudes of profitability.” (Baudrillard 1981: 86). Unfortunately, in today's modern society all that companies care about now is profitability; this is why a merger between cinema and video games is inevitable. Much like books, manga and comics, video games have the exact same appeal to Hollywood; a new demographic to capitalise on. As mentioned previously, the past decade has been constant live action remakes and reboots of all of your favourite franchises. It is what is slowly killing cinema, nothing original is being created anymore and with video game culture being the new main source of entertainment it’s obvious that Hollywood is going to attempt to bring your favourite video game franchises onto the big screen. In his short story “On Exactitude of Science” (1946) Jorge Luis Borges describes cartographers that decide to draw a map, so accurate, that it is one to one and useless occupying the same space as the land beneath it. Eventually the Empire declines and it decays, rotting away leaving the real world, it represents, beneath it. Baudrillard picks this up to begin his book but adds to it in describing his own theories, “Only the allegory of the Empire, perhaps, remains. Because it is with this same imperialism that present-day simulators attempt to make the real, all of the real, coincide with their models of simulation… It is a hyperreal, produced from a radiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere… It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real” (Baudrillard 1981: 1,2). This describes modern cinema beginning like this ‘desert of the real’. Ultimately, they reconstruct old films and franchises so often that what is left now are just empty signs co-opted for different purposes; the ‘real’ media behind the film has ceased to exist.
In conclusion, it is clear to see that in order for cinema to survive it needs to evolve. I think film is going to take a similar route to Artaudian theatre and attempt to absorb the spectator by placing them into the film. It’s obvious that modern society has a lust to indulge their voyeuristic desires and adhering to their ego ideal. By placing themselves into the action they can finally leave behind the shackles of reality and transcend and upgrade themselves into new realities and new people; they can be and do whatever they desire. It’s obvious that Hollywood and the capitalist companies that run modern cinema are on board with this. A new medium to extort to the masses and gain monetary control. If anything, its very similar to Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” (2018). I believe that Borges story on creating a 1:1 scale map and placing it over the real world and the use of virtual reality are going to go hand in hand. Cinema will no longer be an experience shown but an experience lived by placing the spectator as the protagonist of the story. Baudrillard's ideologies of the hyperreal will become real and everything he said about “humanism” and “normality” being capitalised will be sold back to the consumer. Entertainment is now becoming more and more digitalised with the rise of video game culture, the ever-improving technology behind cinema and the desire for companies to create believable realistic phantasm will continue to push the two mediums into experimenting in new forms of entertainment. Hollywood is striving to find the next way to create content to sell to the masses, it can’t keep remaking and rebooting beloved franchises. What it needs to do is to adapt and with attention spans being slowly eroded by a bombardment of new fads and content, replayability and long-lasting content is required to help solve this crisis. Video games is that solution and it’s already beginning to happen.
- A Heist With Markiplier (2019) Directed by Markiplier https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TjfkXmwbTs
- Artaud, A (1938) “Theatre and its Double” New York: Grove Press Inc p96-98
- Baudrillard, J (1981) “Simulacra and Simulation (The Body in Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism)” University of Michigan Press p1-87
- Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018) Directed by: David Slade
- Borges, JL (1946) “On Exactitude of Science” in Borges, KL “El Hacedor” (2013), Vintage Espanol p40
- Hardcore Henry (2015) Directed by: Ilya Naishuller
- Invasion! (2016) Directed by Eric Darnell https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZ0fKW5PttM
- Jones, P (2019) “‘Casting’ James Dean in a new movie is a gimmicky publicity stunt” in RadioTimes https://www.radiotimes.com/news/film/2019-11-07/james-dean-cast-new-film-movie-finding-jack/ last accessed 7th November 2019
- Life is Strange (2015) Made by Square Enix
- McClinton, D. (2019) “Global attention span is narrowing and trends don't last as long, study reveals”, in The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/apr/16/got-a-minute-global-attention-span-is-narrowing-study-reveals last accessed 17th April 2019
- Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism :
- Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford UP,
- 1999: p833-44.
- Quantum Break (2016) Directed by: Ben Ketai
- Ready Player One (2018) Directed by: Stephen Speilberg
- Telltale’s The Walking Dead (2012) Made by TellTale
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) Made by Bethesda Game Studios