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Games: The Future of Storytelling

In this post I talk about the fundamental difference I've found as a film director in story telling through film and video games, as well as how this has changed my career path towards video games for story telling.

Juan Macellari, Blogger

March 11, 2015

5 Min Read

I would like to begin this post by clarifying that my work experience and education is primarily based as a film director who's directed a feature film as well as various short films and music videos.

I decided to change my career to become a game designer. It all started when I realized I could not reach my viewers and leave them a lasting impression of my work. When I would exhibit my film work, I would capture the spectator for however long the film lasted... and that was it. Apart of whether the spectator liked my work or not (which of course mattered to me!), what I was most intrested in, was if I could leave a lasting impression on someone. My stories and scripts have always been driven by morals, messages and deeper meanings, however I couldn't help but notice that the impression I was leaving only lasted for a few minutes after people left the theater. It didn't end there for me however. When I would go to the theater to watch a movie, I would observe as people left during the ending credits. Most times it would end with either a smile or a stern look, however once they reached the outside, their minds were back in the real world. They had their two hour distraction and perhaps a topic of conversation for tomorrow's 10 minute coffee break. 

My whole life I've been playing video games. I started on the NES in 1987 playing games such as Mario, Duck Hunt and The Legend of Zelda. Since then I've evolved alongside various consoles and games and saw how over time, many of these games left a mark on my life. Whether it was a sad moment playing Final Fantasy 7 or an awesome sword fight against Ganon in Zelda: Wind Waker. Even more memorable was when I was able to share experiences with other people in games such as World of Warcraft where I can still recall funny moments that will make me laugh out loud ten years later, or that suspenseful moment when I would fight the Lich King and see how the story ended. On weekends, I also like to be a dungeon master in the pen and paper game, "Dungeons and Dragons." I enjoy the aspect of people being primary elements in my story and how their decisions can evolve and change course of that story. The stories, puzzles and encounters my players have had over the years tend to be much more memorable than any film I've seen or done. 

This brings me to my personal revelation. Games and film are both forms of story telling. What I realized was that watching a film, you are forcing the viewer to watch what you want them to see. As the director, I can focus the attention of the specator on the cell phone when I do a close up shot, therefore I let them know that the cell phone is important in the story, however I am creating the experience for them. They are there for the ride just like someone on a rollercoaster, they sit there and let the cart take them where ever it goes. In a game, the player is creating the experience for themselves, taking the wheel of the rollercoaster cart and creating their own wild ride. They are able to evolve alongside the story at their own pace and make an experience that they can call their own. The player lived it, he/she fought hard to overcome challenges and in the end come out with a sense of achievement. This is something a film can never do. You can follow a character, really love the story, but when it ends, all you have left is the memory of if you liked it or not.

I believe this comes down to how story telling is experienced. When you watch a film, you are taken from scene A to B to C which all together = Story. In books, its somewhat the same with the grand difference that your having to imagine the scene for your self, making the experience personalized to a degree. The method is the same however. You are taken on a linear ride where you have no choice in how you get there. When it comes to games, the same still exists, however the difference lies in the transition between scenes A - B - C which still tell the story, with the difference that the player is the one making the journey from point A to point B, creating experiences along the way, defining why the next point is so important. Also this gives the opportunity to make decisions which might even change the outcome of the story all together. This is something no other form of story telling allowed in the past. So in essence, the most important part in the story telling in video games might not be the points A, B and C, but the time spent inbetween these key points.

This is why I changed my career focus. I know what I want most is to have people delve into my imagination and use my story as a catalyst to form their own experience. Create puzzles and interact directly with my viewers, passing along the messages and morals I feel are important while hopefully creating a positive and meaniningful experience that will last them for years to come.

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