When casting about for media to compare gaming to, most minds land on film. Action movies and action games still draw inspiration from each other, and when game budgets and incomes draw comparisons, it's always to Hollywood.
But over at The Atlantic, writer Yannick LeJacq argues that really, video games and television have much to learn from each other—perhaps, even, a shared future. TV, LeJacq explains, has been drawing in more and more interactivity, and games, particularly explicitly episodic experiences like The Walking Dead, have steadily been taking on more of the broadcast structure.
"Paying $60 dollars per package-not to mention the cost of consoles, other hardware, and related services-is an increasingly prohibitive venture for many gamers," LeJacq observes, before touching on the rise of the free-to-play genre as well as shorter, inexpensive, casual and mobile titles like Angry Birds. He points out that taking what could be a massive, "serious" game and breaking it into discrete, affordable chunks that require a low time investment from players may just be what makes the medium tick in the future:
The implication for consumer taste is that you're fine spending 99 cents on a game you'll play on your morning commute. But if you spend more than 50 bucks, you damn well better be getting your money's worth—if "getting your money's worth" means being able to spend countless hours in front of the screen day after day.
This makes for a weird conflation of "time spent in front of the screen" with "quality." ... By serializing "serious games" of this caliber, long-form dramatic experiences can be doled out with more thought given to the lives of the people playing them.
So far, this seems to actually be working.
LeJacq is not the first to applaud the apparent trend for video games to be cribbing style and strucutre from television. Kotaku's own Kirk Hamilton recently likened no less-beloved a game than Mass Effect 2 to a television series, applauding its sense of pace and timing. And, LeJacq concludes, the trends may eventually move both ways, connecting our entertainment:
After all, just like RuPaul's Drag Race, more television is borrowing from the success of American Idol to invite a deeper sense of user engagement. We're probably a long way away from episodes of Breaking Bad asking, "WILL WALTER WHITE SAVE JANE, OR LEAVE HER TO DIE? TONIGHT, YOU DECIDE." And hopefully, we'll never get to that. But what we may see instead is completely novel experience, something where we all sit down together with a game and a screen—the 21st century's true campfire—and learn how to tell each other better stories.
The Future of Video Games Could Look a Lot Like Television [The Atlantic]