I’m going to begin with this: what you’re about to watch is running in real-time on a Playstation 3. Normally, that statement is a fanboy signal that this demonstration features graphics impressive enough to also convey doubt at whether or not they’re pre-rendered, Hollywood-style CGI. This time, the reason I’m stating that upfront is because what you’re about to see isn’t a video game, and doesn’t mean to be, but was born from the platform.
The history of storytelling in video games is…checkered. For every Uncharted and Mass Effect series, there are a litany of plots so thinly transparent that they rival the cellophane the game came in. But as with any emerging medium, the art comes from unexpected places. Video games’ own attempts at storytelling led to the birth of Machinima, for instance. A focus on the emotions brought about by gameplay itself birthed games like REZ and Flower. It’s a cycle destined to continue repeating itself that art begets technology which further begets art.
So what you’re about to see is a short story about the future – in so many different ways; the future of storytelling, the future of gaming, the future of machines, and even – potentially – the future of humanity.
Oh Borderlands, how I did so love you. You were simultaneously a throwback to the Doom-esque first-person-shooters of old, and a new blend of very unique art design, nuanced gameplay, western-style RPGs, and guns – lots and lots of guns (a theoretical 17 million variations, to be specific.) So after 4 pieces of remarkably entertaining DLC and a staggeringly successful 5 million unit sales on a totally new property, there will of course be a sequel.
The good news is that it looks like a lot of the elements that made the original “shoot-and-loot” so awesome are still present. The better news is that it features a number of improvements (HORIZONTAL SPLITSCREEN!) and an enthusiastically made-up number of more guns / “wub wub.”
I am very, very late in getting this post up, but you’ll have to forgive me and trust me that it’s worth the wait – unlike many video game franchises, a new Grand Theft Auto game doesn’t come along every year, after all.
Above you’ll see the fifth game in the (in)famous series, detailing the new stylings, new environments, new city, and new characters of the franchise. As a longtime gamer, the GTA series has been admittedly hit and miss for me, but one thing I can’t deny is sheer guts behind the development team. You see, unlike many other series (Final Fantasy aside) GTA has been willing to reinvent itself at nearly every iteration, making each entry play similarly, but feel entirely different from the last. That’s a hallmark of Rockstar though – a willingness to challenge their audience’s expectations. From gameplay to character to story, Rockstar has always pushed back at the “just for kids” reputation of video games, preferring to make games unapologetically aimed at a more adult audience. If reputation serves, this will be yet another indelibly adult entry to your games catalogue.
And let’s be clear here, I don’t mean “adult” as in “sex,” though there’ll likely be some of that too. But if Rockstar does one thing better than anything else, it’s create entertainment that can only be understood by those who have lived their lives past a certain age. Like many great films, your own life and experiences are required to understand the motivations of the characters and the entire world seems richer for it. The last GTA explored the concepts of family, immigration, “The American Dream,” and the very grey area of personal morality in a way that few games have ever attempted. If this trailer is any indication, there’s much more of that on the horizon.
There really isn’t any point in denying my undying love for the Portal games. I think they’re fantastically fun, brilliantly written, and incredibly subversive in every way a modern game should be. They’re also incredibly cinematic, with characters that display true pathos and situations that try your emotions in unexpected ways. So obviously Portal is ripe for a transition to film. But here’s the thing: I can’t think of a single game-to-film translation that didn’t suck.
Let’s get this out of the way right at the beginning: this film is awesome. Dan Trachtenberg, co-creator and co-host of The Totally Rad Show, commercial director, and overall video game connoisseur, took on the challenge of translating the Portal games to film and just knocked it out of the park. Taking on a decidedly darker tone than the games, Portal: No Escape is a distilled and concentrated 7 minutes of incredibly dextrous storytelling that notches right into the Portal universe while even making its own additions. This isn’t just a fanfilm, this is a proper creative addition to the Portal universe.
Dear VALVe: hand Dan the keys to Portal, find him a proper film budget, and let this man run wild. Trust us – the results will be worth it.