“[Videogames] are genuine narrative forms and we would have to be very stupid not to be immersed in and understand [them]… […] The art direction, soundscapes, and immersive environments in video games are as good as, if not superior to, most movies.”
– Guillermo Del Toro, director of Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth.
It’s with this bold quote that Jamie Russell opens Generation Xbox – How Video Games Invaded Hollywood. Just from the title and this opening word salvo, you’d think Generation Xbox is about how video games are replacing movies – the nightmare of every film executive in the world, but, at the same time, an oft-prophecied shift that never quite seems to become reality.
In truth, Generation Xbox‘s subtitle is just a “yellow journalism”-style face, intended to incite discussion on what the book is really about – the relationship between movies and video games. Generation Xbox reveals that the relationship between film and video games ultimately isn’t about invasions or dominance, superiority or supplantation –
It’s about convergence and synergy.
From the moment that video games first appeared on screens around the world, video games and movies have inevitably shared a linked fate. Never has this fact been more apparent than it is today, where the two industries share a lot of common technology, techniques, and talent. Russell provides the reader with a detailed history of this very relationship through riveting text based on interviews with over a hundred industry professionals from both sides of the “interactivity fence,” as well as those who audaciously stood in-between the two industries and worked to bring them together. From the life and death of the E.T. game in the Atari 2600 era to the rise and fall of full-motion video in games, from Nintendo’s apathy with the Super Mario movie to the premiere of Heavy Rain – Russell provides a comprehensive background on how video games and movies have cross paths and influenced each other over the past several decades.
In a way, Generation Xbox is a “tale of two industries,” filled with twists, turns, and missteps on both sides. It’s a story where an ambitious animator says good-bye to Disney and redefines cinematic games by making Dragon’s Lair; where George Lucas’s throwaway script for Indy 4 becomes one of the first breakthroughs in adventure game storytelling; where Microsoft finds itself outmaneuvered by Fox and Universal during pre-production on the Halo film; and where James Cameron navigates through his Avatar world of Pandora in the same way a CounterStrike player would.
As storytellers, filmmakers and game designers are no different at the most fundamental level, and by providing unparalleled insight into the relationship between the two biggest storytelling industries, Generation Xbox positions itself as a must-read for the modern day film/game design student and for anyone interested in cinematic storytelling, whether it be games or movies.
Generation Xbox: How Video Games Invaded Hollywood
Author: Jamie Russell
Publisher: Yellow Ant
Release: April 10, 2012