Games and films should inspire one another, yet both mediums are in danger of losing their own identity if they copy each other too closely.
That was the warning offered by Jordan Mechner, both the screenwriter for the upcoming Prince of Persia movie and lead developer on the original game.
Speaking in an interview with Develop, Mechner gave a brusque summarisation of the current crossover culture in games and film:
“As a gamer and as a moviegoer, I sometimes feel like I’m seeing the same trailer over and over,” he said.
“Studio blockbuster movies and studio blockbuster video games have learned so much from each other in the last few years, they’re in danger of becoming practically indistinguishable.”
A point recently made by TV writer Graham Linehan was that games – in their cut scenes and plot layouts – often draw inspiration from movies as opposed to literature. He cited the cutscenes in most Grand Theft Auto titles as a prime example of this.
Mechner echoed Linehan’s point: “Film screenwriting is a very particular writing craft that requires its own apprenticeship and an approach to storytelling that’s very different from game design, one that’s almost diametrically opposed,” he said.
“There’s some carryover of skills between the two, but it’s very limited, and often dangerously deceptive.
“Game and film writing look similar enough from the outside that it’s easy to conclude that just because someone’s good at one, they’ll be good at the other, when in fact under their surface-proficiency they’re making basic, beginner-type errors.”
Mechner added: “I think the richest exchange of ideas and innovation in the next few years won’t come from the big studio franchises (games and movies), but from independent games and films that are made for lower budgets and distributed through different channels.”