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Battlefield 2042 - Should the game industry follow the footsteps of Hollywood?

EA has just published trailers on its upcoming shooter, Battlefield 2042. Battlefield 2042 appears as the video game version of Hollywood blockbusters. But is it such a good idea? By choosing this path,isn't EA prioritizing form over substance?

Electronic Arts has just published several trailers on its upcoming multiplayer shooter, Battlefield 2042, developed by its studio DICE. The least we can say is they are awesome. In particular, one of the trailers is just a succession of spectacular scenes, explosions with larger-than-life effects and destructions depicted in great detail.

Battlefield 2042 is the video game version of Hollywood blockbusters.

But is it such a good idea? By choosing this path, isn't EA prioritizing form over substance?

For several decades, Hollywood has made a choice: To give priority to the spectacular dimension of its films. Committed budgets are enormous. Nothing is too good or too expensive to offer viewers something "never seen before", "always more". To make their expensive productions profitable, the cinema majors seek to cast their net as wide as possible in terms of audience; the themes are consensual and the heroes are « smooth" and simple to understand. Finally, to make such large investments profitable, launches are supported by costly communication campaigns.

The commercial results of their blockbusters tend to prove them right; the spectators are there.

So should the video game industry go this route?

Big game publishers tend to follow the same strategy: To develop graphically spectacular games, to target player audiences as large as possible, and to launch their titles in global commercial blitz. This triple-A strategy has many points in common with the ones implemented by the cinema majors.

To begin with, the priority given to special effects comes at the expense of the narrative dimension. This overbidding leads the screenwriters to adapt (to build?) Their scenarios around increasingly spectacular and disproportionate scenes. The narration then becomes a simple pretext to show more and more unimaginable scenes. This has several consequences: Scenarios are less and less interesting, because they are very predictable, and characters are so shallow and unrealistic that we can no longer identify with them.

Thus, Hollywood is depriving itself of a way to satisfy audiences that crave good stories. The proof comes from the rise of series which focus above all on the narrative dimension. Their undeniable success proves that quality storytelling is as effective as superheroes at drawing crowds.

Then, this blockbuster strategy leads to impoverish the content of films which tend to look more and more similar, at least within a given genre. This could be a fatal flaw because novelty is one of the engines of our leisure industries.

We can see that this blockbuster strategy has its limits, but there is also a reason specific to video games which must temper this search to mimic the film industry: A good game is based above all on the experience that players will enjoy: The choices, the challenges offered to the players, their interactions between them: In short, the gameplay.

The perfect counter-example of a game design strategy that is not based on the big show dimension but is hugely successful is The Last Of Us - Part II.

The game focuses on two aspects: Sophisticated combat and infiltration gameplays and an incredible narrative dimension. The locations visited are superbly modeled but are not spectacular, the players do not face titanic monsters, the main characters are not superheroes or umpteenth members of the special forces; they are normal people. On the other hand, the narrative experience is exceptional because it makes you think. Yes, in this game the storytelling is not just a pretext to justify the player's actions and the places visited; it leads players to ask a lot of questions about the violence they do. In that sense, The Last Of Us - Part II is a true masterpiece that doesn't need special effects debauchery to achieve its goal: To be a commercial success AND a critical success.

I invite you to reread my previous Gamasutra blog which deals with this theme: Games That Make Us Think.

In conclusion, of course, we should not reject outright the strategies inspired by those of the Hollywood majors, but we should not blindly imitate them either.

 

My previous publications

Ubisoft announces that it will develop free-to-play triple-A games: Has the French publisher gone mad or visionary?  FEATURED POST

Cyberpunk 2077 - Have video games become products like any other? FEATURED POST

UX designer or game designer: Which one do you need?  FEATURED POST

 

Pascal Luban

Creative director & game designer, freelance

25+ years of experience serving studios and publishers

www.gamedesignstudio.com

 

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