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Blueprint : The Final Cut

VoxelArcade Blueprint # 013

It was whilst immersing myself in the final act of The Last Of Us that the game’s cinematic roots took their deepest hold upon me. From the emotionally gripping opening act to the first fallen comrade, through to the early spark in the protagonists’ deep and meaningful relationship; here was a game not just borrowing from Hollywood, but surpassing it with aplomb.

As the final act unfolded, I clearly remember thinking to myself that the game needed to cut and edit the narrative; to swap between disparate and yet intertwined scenes, just as films do. You can imagine the look on my face when, literally five minutes later, it did. That’s either sheer coincidence, or yet another sign of Naughty Dog’s complete mastery of the medium.

Either way, it got me thinking. Whilst I’ve long argued that linearity in game-design is nothing to shy away from, linearity in delivery is perhaps a norm that games – more specifically story-driven games – would be wise to move away from.

You could argue that this is already the case. We’ve all seen plot, location and character change from level to level – but what I’m talking about is something as sharp and profound as the editing that we see in film. No load screens, no levels, no pregnant pauses – just an elegant and carefully managed flow from place to place and scene to scene as the tension builds seamlessly. Indeed, you could well argue that the whole notion of ‘levels’ is an unwelcome hangover from the days of old; a concept born of antiquated mechanical issues that still hangs over us like an overbearing parent.

The above scene, taken from the sublime 2006 dystopian masterpiece, Children Of Men, is a testament to the sheer skill and determination required to achieve continuous shots in film – with the preparation and stage-management reaching dizzying heights. And yet in games, we take this kind of exposition for granted. In games, it is the very opposite that we marvel at.

In a bizarre way then, games and films have moved increasingly towards each other in recent years. Contemporary films delivered from the perspective of a single character that feature such lengthy scenes are considered to be art-house or left-field in nature. For games, this being their de facto position, it’s titles such as The Last Of Us that stand-out for moving closer to the form and function of classic film.

In other words: perhaps the real future of games, lay in the past of films?

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