Are Games Finally Going Mainstream?

By Jonathan Barnes, 8 years ago
As I was doing my daily foraging of the internet, I happened to come across a New York Times biography of Joseph Kosinski. If that name doesn’t ring a bell to you, don’t worry, it shouldn’t. The man is not super famous… yet.

Kosinski is the director of the upcoming film TRON: Legacy and the focus of the piece centered around how Disney entrusted a (much-beloved) franchise to a relative new-comer in the film world. Kosinski’s resume was briefly described as being the director of television advertisments promoting Chevrolet cars, Nike shoes, and video games.

Needless to say, this caught my eye. I proceeded to go to the director’s personal/professional site and check out some of his work.

What I found, should be a surprise to no one:

That’s right, Mr. Kosinski is the genius behind the greatest video game trailer of all time. A further perusal of his work shows that he also did the trailer “Starry Night” as well as two of the trailers for, ”Last Day” and ”Rendezvous”. In short, this guy knows how to work with games.

The overarching story here is not the potential excellence that might be TRON: Legacy, though, it’s the permeation of gaming culture into pop culture. Mr. Kosinski cut his teeth in the film business by treating major video games with the artistic dignity that they deserve, but he is not alone in gaining respect for his work with games. One needs to look no further than last week’s Grammy nominations where composer Christopher Tin became the first person ever nominated for a Grammy for the composition of a videogame theme. His composition “Baba Yetu” features the Soweto Gospel Choir and is the opening theme for the PC Game Civilization IV. It has been shortlisted in the category "Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists".

While it is nice to see that video games are beginning to receive some of the artistic respect that they deserve (Roger Ebert not withstanding), one cannot help but wonder if that respect is going to start to flow in reverse.

Think about it; when was the last time you saw a good movie based on a video game or a good video game licensed around a movie? It’s a sad reflection on Hollywood when many gamers continue to pine for big screen adaptations of their favorite IPs (Mass Effect, Halo, and Gears of War seem to be common favorites) but continue to get greeted with tripe from film hacks like Uwe Boll and crap like the film adaptation of Doom.

In the past week, though, two more cases have thrown their hats into the ring of the movie-game conundrum.

Last week Inception director Christopher Nolan mentioned that they are planning a game based around his world where people enter each other’s dreams (He has evidently not spoken to Tim Schafer about Psychonauts.). On the flip side (and much to the chagrin of Nathan Fillion fans), writer/director David O. Russell is evidently pre-casting Mark Wahlberg to play Nathan Drake in his film based on the PS3 franchise.

One of the major problems in creating quality film adaptations of beloved games lies in the basest of motivations… money. A few weeks ago, the New York Videogame Critic’s Circle covered a story about Microsoft’s Frank O’Connor addressing a panel on the subject of transmedia with Halo being the focus. O’Connor was asked why a Halo movie hasn’t yet been made, and was quoted as saying:

It was the lawyers. When they went behind closed doors with the contracts, things fell apart. The problem was that the movie company couldn’t make any money beyond the movie.
"Money beyond the movie" concerns things like toys, t-shirts, soundtracks, tie-ins, and all of the other tchotchkes that surround a typical big budget release. Microsoft owns the licensing rights to all of that stuff and doesn’t want to share those profits with a film company, much less give them away… and many other publishers/developers feel the same way about their IPs.

So what does this all mean for gamers? Not much in the grand scheme of things, but it goes to show that the games as art (or, at the very least, game-makers as artists) movement seems to be going ahead. However, it will still be a good while before games are treated with the same reverence as books when it comes to source material for film adaptations...
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.