One day while watching some cinematics for a game I was working on, I thought, "How awesome would it be if the characters just busted out into song?!" And while I initially just threw out the idea as just some random hair brained whim, the more I thought about it, the more I really fell in love with the idea. And then instead of the question being "what if?" it became "why not?"
Why can't we make a polished first person shooter that just happens to also be a musical? You can still have your army soldiers, monsters, zombies, what have you, but now, when you meet new characters, find out something new about the plot, or need an intermission, it is now delivered with the majesty of song.
Now, you might be snickering. Thinking that musicals are cheesy, or will rob you the seriousness of headshots with something less hardcore. But think about how much a song can affect you. Think about how a song can stick with you. How much it takes on a meaning, and how often you can listen to a good song over and over. And now think about the last time the story in a game, nay an FPS, hit you in the same way. Musicals would be a great change of pace from the overly serious and melodramatic storytelling we have as the mainstream standard today.
So then of course, when pitching a game idea, you get the questions:
"What is the story?"
"Who is the main character?"
"Where does it take place?"
For this it doesn't matter. It can be any story you want it to be, any character you want it to be, and take place anywhere you want. The best musicals cover some of the darkest and mature topics around. Many the same as games, but with much more emotional impact. But ultimately, the answers to those questions will be decided on when we are given a game. I just want to know why we couldn't make it a musical when we are given it. Instead of sitting through talking heads, why can't they be choreographed singing heads? If we were able to get good songwriters, not only would we be giving the players a story, we would be giving them songs that the can sing along to and fall in love with.
There is the big question though, since it is a game:
"How will this affect gameplay?"
It would be easy to again reply with it doesn't, but that would be admitting this is nothing more than just a musical set to film. Which, in and of itself is enough for me. But, to take advantage of the medium, how can we make it an interactive gaming musical. The first thought that ran through my mind was hooking up all the plastic instruments players now have littering their floors. Have them be in the second port for co-op. The second player controls the tempo of the game. If they play it fast and intense, then the player is given a boost but wears out quickly. If they play it slow, the player can regenerate faster. Tense and creepy would put the player on edge for enhanced accuracy.
Now, I'm not saying that is a great idea, or the best. Just the first off the top of my head. But it would certainly add something beyond just songs to the gameplay, as well as give another purpose to all the game instruments people have. And it would get people thinking differently about how to make an FPS game.
Have I lost my mind? Am I completely serious with all of this? Sort of. My main point is, "Why can't we try this?" Much like the common question of "Why can't we just make the main character something other than white?", I just want to know why we can't do stories beyond spoken monologues. There are musical arcade shooters, such as Everyday Shooter or Rez, which while not great commercial successes, are certainly critical successes. And if you can boil the elevator pitch to "its Call of Duty meets Guitar Hero" I am sure most game publishers would at least perk up at that point. Now add to the pitch the CD sales and iTunes downloads that could be sold for the soundtrack, and they are REALLY listening.
The biggest obstacle would be not making it for the Wii, because then, instead of the musical just being a part of the game, it would become the entire hook. And then instead of being an integrated experience, it would become a gimmick. And that means instead of it becoming a part of the gamers lifelong lexicon, it will be a fade, here and gone again. A joke for future generations to look back on. And that isn't so much the fault of the system, as the mindset of the industry for games on that system.
What I want is Gears of War: Les Miserables. Just saying it gives me chills. Adding songs to games, good songs, could be one more step towards making game stories timeless. Which for me is the definition of great art.