I like this “cinematic” trend in video games

I’ve been a fan of Blizzard Entertainment since their WarCraft II days. I must admit that I’m unusual in that respect – because the thing I liked most was Blizzard’s storylines. Don’t get me wrong, the gameplay was great – I loved sneaking those ghosts into Terran Confederacy bases, blasting my way through enemy defenses with a Protoss carrier group, or overrunning the towns of Azeroth with necromancers and skeletons. But I really appreciated the time Blizzard put into the single-player campaigns and the storylines behind them. ¬†Even with a standard real-time strategy-game God’s-eye view of the battlefield, I would imagine what the Terran frontier towns on Mar Sara were like, imagine Kerrigan making her last stand against the Zerg onslaught, or picture Tassadar on the bridge of his command carrier, surrounded by his most trusted warriors as he led them to their heroic end.

Blizzard isn’t alone in this, of course. For all its repetitive gameplay, Assassin’s Creed tried to be as much like playing inside a movie as it could (it’s only a matter of time until someone takes a similar engine to make the Bourne Identity video game, and that will be awesome). The Star Wars universe became an interactive movie with The Force Unleashed, especially on the Wii, which let players wave their hands through the air to control the Force (at least, in a rudimentary way). But besides the gameplay elements, The Force Unleashed is a great example for having production values right up there with movies – that game had some of the best concept art I’ve ever seen, the story was clearly thought out and compelling, and the acting was very well done. Speaking of acting, video games were once the realm of C-list voiceovers, but now we now have the likes of Martin Sheen voicing characters in Mass Effect 2 – which had a tremendous cinematic trailer, enough to make me wish for an XBox.

I really like this trend. It makes video games into – gasp – a reputable medium for storytelling. I don’t think this format will ever replace books or movies, but it can certainly come up right beside them as a way to tell an interesting tale, describe compelling characters, teach us something about human interactions, and make the audience think.

Oh – what prompted this sudden post, you ask? Easy:

Not only is this an insanely high-production-value cinematic trailer, but it is clearly investing the StarCraft II story with a great deal of emotional content. Yeah, sure, it’s emotional content I’ve seen in movies/books/TV before – what is important to my point here is that the last time we saw this stuff, in the original StarCraft, it was from a standard RTS top-down perspective with voiceovers on little moving head-and-shoulders portraits of Kerrigan and Raynor. Now we see it as if it’s got a film director behind it. And now all the gamers get immersed in not only the plot but the characters’ experiences and sensations. Exciting stuff for storytellers!

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