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Beowulf: The video game-movie-video game

Angelinajoliebeowulf Much has been made about the convergence of film and video games. The latest exhibit in the apparently unavoidable morph/collision is Robert Zemeckis' new film Beowulf. If you've seen the trailers you know that the CGI-rendered film basically looks like one long well-produced video game cutscene, with Angelina Jolie giving new meaning to the term "digital assets."

I haven't seen the film yet, but Chris Kohler over at Wired has, and he offers some interesting observations:

Game industry watchers who have long predicted that the revolution in video games would be about games evolving and becoming movies, as it turns out, had it all backwards. It'll be because movies are becoming video games.

I've spoken about the "films becoming video games" reverse convergence at several colloquium events in recent years, and I've often referred to the Spiderman series as evidence of entire movie sequences being designed with video game play in mind. It's hard to argue the reality of such cross-media convergence when the game designers are at the table with the filmmakers from the beginning of the project. If they weren't, the all-important movie/video game joint releases could never happen.

That said, this PG-13 film is laden with so much near-nudity, sexual humor, and gratuitous violence that it would certainly garner an M rating if it were slapped onto a video game console -- if not a full-on Adults Only, for the sex jokes and digital ass. If Beowulf truly does represent games and movies intermingling, then perhaps it will help expose the double standard that currently draws a thick black line between them.

Kohler's point about the ratings double standard seems a bit more complex to me. While it's certainly true that the kinds of violence and sexual content we see in movies could never be included in video games targeted at the same age groups, I do think the interactive aspect of video games complicates things a bit.

Is there a significant experiential difference between passively watching violence and "committing" it via an avatar? Conversely, perhaps the voyeuristic nature of film is more insidious than the straightforward activities I engage in via my avatar. Tommy Vercetti may be a bad guy sometimes, but at least he's not a creepy peeping Tom. Hitchcock weirds me out way more than Scorsese.

You can read all of Kohler's essay here.