This is my first attempt at putting something on here for your perusal as a contributor on Blast Process.
Hopefully you will find something in here to agree with, disagree with or go away and think about something I have said anyway!
I shall contribute when I can so hopefully you’ll see me again soon!”
Within the movie industry, cross-fertilisation on properties is nothing new.
Upon a big summer blockbuster release, there would be the inevitable influx of novelisations, magazines, annuals, toys, t-shirts, comic adaptations and, usually, a lacklustre (though not always!) video-game tie-in.
This is understandable, as a film is only a few hours long, in which time character immersion is lacking, so people would like to spend a bit more time with getting to know who they are watching, so books and comics that explore more of their journey will help fill in gaps and give the reader a bigger picture.
This really came to the forefront in gamers’ minds with the release of Enter the Matrix (Shiny Entertainment/Atari, 2003), a multi-platform “episode” in the Matrix (Larry and Andy Wachowski, 1999-2003) trilogy of films.
We all saw the films (unfortunately) and at the beginning of Reloaded we briefly hear how a message was passed to the humans by the crew of another ship but we never see how this is achieved.
To get the full story, we are required to first watch the episode of The Animatrix (Manga, 2003)entitled Final Flight of the Osiris that shows the message being posted and then sit down and play a whole video game based on picking up the message and delivering it to the council.
What started out as 3 cinema tickets or 3 DVDs, suddenly became 3 cinema tickets or 3 DVDs, watching another DVD for the particular episode and then £40 for something that could have been in the film.
While that may seem cynical (hey, it’s what I do!) that seems to have been a one-off.
Film tie-ins are never totally faithful to the source material because that would be logistically unsound, but they keep the general feel of the film and don’t expect you to fill in the gaps with something else.
Games, however, seem to be taking a bit of a turn into this world and it could get quite expensive!
The first time it really struck me was how many comic tie-ins there are now.
Being a regular visitor to the comic shop, there are a lot of game properties that now have regular, or mini-series being published.
A lot of the time these are external to the games themselves, looking at different adventures or events using the characters, but now and again there are series that tie things together within the games themselves.
Mass Effect (Bioware, 2007) has a limited issue series based on the search for Shepard’s body during Mass Effect 2 (Bioware, 2010), something which actually happens at the beginning of the game.
I now feel I should play the first 10 minutes of the game, pause, read 4 issues of the comic to fill in that gap and then resume play.
Obviously, it isn’t feasible to have something so story-driven within the game as it would be slightly boring and would upset the strong narrative based on Shepard him(or her)self.
He is dead, therefore we as players should also be “dead” during the same time, that however does nothing to satisfy the curiosity of how you managed to stop being dead!
We are introduced to a few major players within the comic too so am I supposed to read that at the correct time, then spoil the surprise of who is who and what their agenda is?
I have read the series and it does tie up loose ends, but I would recommend either finishing the story first and going back, or being prepared to have certain things come as less as a surprise within the game.
Other series include Halo, Gears of War, God of War and Dragon Age but most of these are ‘prequel’ stories or side-stories so whether you want to read them is up to you and will not spoil your enjoyment of the game.
Indeed, the Dragon Age comic (IDW Publishing, 2010) seems to have little, if anything to do with the playable side of it and only shares the same factions and locations found in the game.
While comics seem to be growing as a by-product, we are also seeing a lot of visual tie-ins, the majority of which are animated, to fit in with the style of the games.
When I bought Dead Space (EA, 2008), I was unaware that I was playing through a story that started a lot earlier.
It was only when I found the animated movie prequel, and then the animated motion comic that I realised it was the back end of quite a long narrative.
Again, as with the Matrix game, a lot of what was shown would not fit as a game, but why not give us at least a cutscene with a bit of backstory and then give us the choice of whether or not we explore that world further, rather than not giving us any option except paying out for (or “borrowing”) the film.
Resident Evil (Capcom 1996-present), Crackdown 2 (Microsoft Game Studios, 2010) and possibly evenHalo (Bungie, 2001) with the series of short promotional films, are all guilty of doing this and dropping us into a story with no idea how we got there.
Hell, even games on the Spectrum gave us a screen of text to let you at least know why you had to defeat a wizard or find something.
It is getting quite clear that the game industry wishes to emulate the film industry in terms of cross-media products, but they have the time within the games to show us more than you can get in a 2 hour film.
I would be quite happy to play, and have played, ‘tutorial’ levels that go some way to explaining why things are happening.
A good example of this would be Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (Ubisoft, 2003) where you actually play through up to the point where he takes the dagger and things go tits-up!
Even something like Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo, 2007) has you playing a few minutes while reminding you how to jump and move until the inevitable Bowser attack before the game properly starts.
I am in no way criticising this use of other media, because I like the fact that there are other avenues with which to explore more of games that I have become immersed in and feel a connection to characters within.
There’s nothing wrong with a grown man collecting comics or keeping toys in the boxes! 😉
On the other hand, I am also not condoning the restrictions that are being inflicted upon us, as gamers.
It’s not really fair to expect us to fork out £40-50 on what we expect to be a full product, only to be told that part of the story will cost around £15 extra.
I like merchandise and I understand the economical and logistical reasoning behind it, I would just like the choice to get the full experience when I pay to do so.
I would prefer not to play through a game for a few hours or through a series of games, only to be told I am seeing part of the story and if I want to know how the world is how it is, I have to go out and find the comic or book or DVD.
So come on game companies, we all know that you could at least give us a clue as to why we are waking up on a mysterious spaceship populated with monsters, or how we became the technologically advanced half-human/half-robot killing machine we are.
If that just means sticking a quick animation or a motion comic as an extra on the disc then so be it, you have the space.
Stop leaving us short-changed story-wise!