More Of The Same, Please
I recently mused over whether or not the future of games actually lay in the past of films – of whether the quick edit and rapid scene-change that we take for granted in films, could be be used to elevate games even closer to being an art form. I still hold true to that thought, but after watching some truly hum-drum let-down sequels at the cinema, I’m starting to wonder if there’s a few tricks that films could learn from games.
After taking my kids to watch Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 – both franchises that my family love – I came away feeling completely let down by both. The problem seems to be that with the first film in each franchise, the creators painted themselves into a corner somewhat, basically covering all of the bases that needed to be covered in the first go. The ending to Monsters Inc. for example, is one of the most perfect film endings that’s ever been made. Pixar at least had the good sense to recognise this, electing instead for the prequel approach. The thing is, in going backwards, they also tried in vain to go forwards. The end result? All of the charm, wonder and humour from the first film is lost and what we’re left with instead is a well-meaning genesis story that just happens to be based in the Monsters universe. The same story could have been told in any number of narrative frameworks – tacking-on Mike and Sully just feels like a cheap cash-in.
I’m with Mike on this one …
Similarly, Despicable Me 2 fails to break any new ground whatsoever in the wake of its original, charming and black-comedy-fuelled predecessor. The pacing is simply shocking at times with Illumination Entertainment seemingly as happy as Pixar to simply wheel-out the same characters to tell a generic tale that could have been delivered by any number of characters – a tale, crucially, that bears no resemblance to that of the first film.
And so what could these two films have learned from games?
Well, if there’s one medium that’s mastered the ‘more of the same’ approach to sequels, its games. Giving customers more of what they want is often seen as a dirty concept – a failing of a creative community. I say to hell with that: evolution and revolution come from the genre and the medium more broadly; expecting a franchise to carry that heavy burden alone is madness – so why not embrace and celebrate more of the same within a successful franchise? It’s a model that COD has made a lengthy and profitable career out of, with its millions of adoring fans being more than happy to be force-fed yet another identikit sequel. The Uncharted series is another that has been confident and wise enough to recognise its strengths and play to them – much like the lead character Nathan Drake himself.
Nathan Drake: still holding on to what he does best.
Granted: had Pixar and Illumination accepted that ‘more of the same’ would have made a better sequel, they may have soon realised that doing so was near impossible given the ‘completeness’ of their originals. You also have to accept that games can maintain an underlying sense of mechanical familiarity whilst changing the outer skin to give the impression of change, when indeed there is little change truly there.
Nonetheless, given the direction-less results to be found in MU and DM2, it’s pretty clear that, once again, change for change’s sake rarely produces ground-breaking results. Moreover, it rarely produces results as enjoyable as ‘more of the same’.
All hail games: masters of the predictable, comfortable sequel.
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Husband. Parent. Gamer. Go figure.