Week 8 – Social Utility (Hollywood in Games)

In 2005, I sat in awe as the closing credits of Batman Begins rolled. It was the first time I had ever considered that an actual team was behind the film I had just seen, rather than a phantom production that had materialised out of nowhere.

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The film that started it all…(image courtesy of rookerville.com)

This is what grew my love for film. This is what made me want to pursue a career making them. Behind that cinematic wonder, were real people who were helping bring that vision to life.

So how does that relate in any way to my game?

Growing up, I always wanted to see a card/board game emulating the process of making a film. This sounds oddly specific doesn’t it? At the time the only games based around films were focused exclusively on trivia, featuring clips from various movies. Even then I saw right through these games, as cheap gimmicks that tried to pander to film audiences through a generalised gameplay structure (that was often identical to the sports trivia game the company had released earlier, just with a Hollywood coat of paint).

Scene It? a popular game created by Screenlife, is a perfect example of this. The game focused around DVD-intergrated gameplay, which would test each player on their film and pop culture knowledge. On it’s own, the game is all a film-buff like myself would need, but as soon as you look at the expanded roster of Screenlife’s games, a disturbing pattern begins to emerge; they’re each almost identical.

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Scene It? (image courtesy of geekdo)

Although the majority of the Scene It? series focused around film franchises, they were all ultimately the same game with adapted questions. Yes, this may be a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but as someone who wanted to engage with games that complimented film, I felt as if Screenlife were misrepresenting me, and other fans of the medium. To them, trivia was all we cared about, and as players, all we needed. It became quite evident that Screenlife was, in a way, underselling the very audience they were marketing their games to.

Now, eleven years later, Masters of Hollywood: Director Face-Off sits in front of me. Hopefully making some kind of personal amends for the inner child inside me. This is the audience I hope my game reaches; those interested in film, who want a quirky and simple to play game that gives a simplified depiction of filmmaking, but ultimately stays faithful to the process.

In a journal article written by Adrienne Shaw, she states:

“A dominant thread in much of my research is that in many ways marginalized players do not care about the lack of representation in games, or at least do not expect it to happen particularly when they do not see themselves as gamers.” (Shaw, 2014)

I completely disagree with this notion. Although I’m not as much of a gamer as I was many years ago, the idea of representation (or misrepresentation) is still one I take seriously when engaging with games. When the reboot of Tomb Raider released, I was anxious to see whether Square Enix had stayed faithful to the strong character Lara Croft had become and not represented her as the over-sexualised character she had been perceived as in the years prior. As a male gamer, this just goes to show how important representation in gaming is, as by all accounts this issue had no personal relevance to me, and yet I still cared about the outcome.

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Lara Croft in the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot (image courtesy of Xbox Live)

The concept of Masters of Hollywood: Director Face-Off wouldn’t have even popped into my mind, if I hadn’t noted a clear absence of authentic film-related board/card games while growing up.

I’m sure, in some sense my above complaints in comparison to my board game might come across as a little hypocritical. As after all, aren’t I just giving into a satirical depiction of filmmaking? A heavily watered-down version of a real life process?

The answer is both yes and no.

While my game is an overly-simplified version of the real-life filmmaking process (in some parts barely resembling it), I’m also trying to help break the perception that most film fans are only interested in recycled trivia games. I’m trying to deliver a game that is an homage to filmmaking, without relying on that sole fact to sell my game. I hope it stands on it’s own merit, and in a sense people forget that the game is even tied to film, as they get invested in the mechanics and gameplay.

In some way, I hope to stand up to the perception that trivia games are the best film fans can expect in the game world. We deserve more, and hopefully this game, even though far from being a solution, will contribute to amending that.

References:

  1. Shaw, A. (2013). On Not Becoming Gamers: Moving Beyond the Constructed Audience. Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, [online] (2). Available at: http://adanewmedia.org/2013/06/issue2-shaw/ [Accessed 5 May 2016].

    2. Boardgamegeek.com. (2002). Scene It? Movie | Board Game | BoardGameGeek. [online] Available at: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/4864/scene-it-movie [Accessed 5 May 2016]

8 thoughts on “Week 8 – Social Utility (Hollywood in Games)

  1. I think it is great that you have chosen a topic that you are really passionate about. You have also recognised a problem in the game industry and it seems like your game is combatting it very well. I like the idea that your game is not just based around movies and actors, but rather looks at the film industry from a more realistic and broad perspective. I look forward to seeing the finished product.

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  2. I really loved the opening part of your post, it really made me think of the movies that made me become consumed by how it affected me. Mine for example was from Jurassic Park when I was only 5 that I thought they actually had dinosaurs in a park somewhere in the world that needed saving.

    I do also agree with your statement about Adrienne Shaw point and that the newest Lara Croft game was epic! Representation is a key towards either games or movies for that matter. It is what draws us in to grab the game and play it while the game mechanics and story is what makes us want to replay.

    I cannot wait to see your game finished, I think it will be awesome.

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  3. Creating films would be an awesome industry to work in! Videography and film is one of the few ways creative people can really create an emotional response or reaction from their viewers, and I’ve always found that to be really pwoerful. So it’s great to see that you’re working in an area that you love!
    There’s so many aspects of making a film in the industry these days, and if you implemented them all, the game would really drag out and become a lot less fun! So i’m glad you’ve kept to the basics!

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  4. Hey Tom,

    Your post this week was very engaging…I read the whole thing! As someone who is very interested in creating and watching short films your game sounds refreshing. Have you considered the social interactions that will be created in your game? This week I read the article linked in week 1, ‘Chores are Fun,’ by Xu et al (2011). Xu et al (2011) explains five different categories of social interactions stemming from gameplay. From your game design, players will begin to discuss strategy in terms of the game but then players could possibly begin to share knowledge about their real life film strategies. Thanks for sharing your childhood woes.

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  5. Hey Tom! I think your response to the Shaw quote is spot-on. I can kind of see where she is coming from but ultimately I also disagree with her. I’m a gamer but mum is absolutely not one, but she still cares about representation in all media–games included. She even seems kind of interested in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and refers to it as “the video of the girl walking around London”. Lack of representation is definitely an obstacle in making gaming more accessible to even more people. Too often I see games that are so generalised in order to cater to as many customers as possible that I think many are just ignoring what people *actually* want. Looking at your game through this context is so refreshing and it makes me appreciate your game even more!

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  6. I think the amount of people responding to your post gives you good indication of how lit this game sounds. As a film maker, this would be a great way to introduce my friends to the sort of thing i want to do for the rest of my life. Ten out of ten on the original af idea. Thumbs up.

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  7. It’s great to see someone using their love of movies, probably equal to my own, and putting it into their game. I agree with the lack of movie games when we were kids. I remember all the spin offs of “Scene It?”, Harry Potter, The Simpsons, James Bond, etc etc and to me, they were just going for a cheap money grab but, as a kid, I didn’t really care because I got to beat everyone I played against. I think that your choice to turn it into a game that isn’t so generalised and is something new but still having simple game mechanics for people who are actually interested in how films are made. I’m definitely interested to play this because of my own love of film!

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  8. Hey Tom,
    You’ve raised some great points here. I’m not a film fanatic, but it is incredibly unusual how film and games, two forms of media that share so many similarities and fans, haven’t really combined in the form of a board game before. It’s so common for popular films to release a corresponding video game to cash in on the hype of the overlapping audience, and it clearly works (with the exception of ET on Atari *shudders*). Trivia is all well and good, but after answering the same question for the 400th time, demolishing your friends over and over again, you really need something new.
    I think you’re really hitting on some untapped potential with Masters of Hollywood, keep it up mate!

    Like

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