Last year I was playing Dead Space 3 on my Xbox 360. I had played the previous two games and each game builds on the story from the last one as the main character Isaac is featured in all three. With such an investment into the story, I was curious to see how the game plays out in the third installment.
For those who don’t know, the Dead Space series of games can be classified as survival horror games. In such games, the player is put into suspenseful situations and scary environments where fear is something designers want you to feel. In Dead Space, monsters frequently appear out of nowhere, behind you and above you with the element of surprise and try to kill your character. I don’t like scary movies and it’s no big surprise that I generally don’t like scary games. I only started playing the first Dead Space because it was well-reviewed, had an interesting sci-fi setting, and it was cheap (I got an employee discount at the time). At times I could not play it more than five minutes before having to take a break to let the stress drain from my body. As such, it took me much longer to finish the first two games than usual.
So last year, I again decided to step back into that universe with the third game. As before, stupid mutated space monsters would jump out at me without warning and try to kill my character. Every step had me on edge. After several hours in, when some creatures ambushed me in a blinding snow storm, I decided that was enough. I didn’t want to feel super stressed each step my avatar took and be sweaty after playing the game. I realized I cared more about seeing the story progress than the actual gameplay. There was no fun in killing the monsters, I just wanted to see the next set of cutscenes (non-interactive sequences that move the story along).
It was then that I discovered there are whole YouTube channels devoted to making videos that show a game as if they were a movie. Lots of games have a plot, just like a movie and the parts where you are in control are there so that you can get to the next plot point. The cutscenes, the parts where you’re not in control and just watching, contain the actual exposition and important story elements. Theoretically, you could assemble a “movie” from a video game by just editing all the cutscenes together. Practically, it’s a little more difficult to do than just that. Often the cutscenes mention something that just happened while the player was in control of the main character during gameplay. Without knowing what was going on during actual gameplay, the cutscene would have no context. For example, if you watch Batman interrogate the Joker, you might be wondering how the hell did Batman capture him in the first place. Well, that’s because the game had the player defeat the Joker just prior to that. That’s why the best video game “movie” videos are edited together with just enough gameplay footage to glue the cutscenes together with context. How much of this gameplay “glue” to use is a fine art. If you use too much footage, then people don’t care and can get bored with just watching someone play a game. If one uses too little gameplay, then people won’t know what’s going on in the cutscenes.
The combination of some great cinematic games with slick editing have produced some genuinely entertaining videos. You don’t even need to be a fan of video games to enjoy them. The video I have shown above is a masterfully edited one featuring Batman: Arkham Asylum. This game was critically acclaimed as one of the best superhero games to have ever been made and contains compelling story with great voice acting. This particular video contains just enough gameplay footage to string together the cutscenes in a tight format. Even though I played the game through in the traditional manner, I still found the video to be fun to watch.
So in the end, I don’t think I’ll ever finish Dead Space 3 as a game but I was able to get the whole story via these video game “movies”.