You turn on Netflix. You see the opening scenes. There’s a hustle-and-bustle going on with the crowd but not a main character to be identifiable yet. The shooting feels clunky. The music has a heavy synth sound in its tones. There’s not a black person in sight, unless it’s the main character or a homeless person in the movie. You have the suspicion that you’re watching an 80s movie or an early 90s movie.
We can pull what movies feel like a period-movie with only a few moments of watching a scene. For the current generation of young adults, it’s almost instinctual to know when many movies were created because of the tropes that these movies execute. Group of misfits learns to come together? Is it in a high school or outside of it? Is the hair outrageous? What about the Clothing? If you answer yes to all but the clothing, then the movie is probably a John Hughes movie and you’re probably watching the Breakfast Club, let’s be honest. The point is that what are the tropes that will define the movies that we watch today?
It’s easy to define the tropes that out Summer Blockbuster’s embody. State the theme of the movie – Introduce a Catalyst to start the tension – Raise the Stakes – All-is-lost – Final Act. Thanks to Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat! : The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need [http://www.amazon.com/dp/1932907009/?tag=slatmaga-20] we can have the same formula for movies for most blockbusters since 2005, when the book was published. I’m not saying that good movies haven’t been produced using this formula or with other tropes from this book like: Hero getting reprimanded in the first scenes of the movie, or villain gets caught as part of his plan. Start Trek: Into Darkness, Skyfall, 21 Jump Street, Guardians of the Galaxy – any Marvel/DC movie for that matter. But these are tropes that audiences will quickly identify this period of movies in the future which can easily date the movie making it harder to watch in the future.
The same can be said with our games, but this medium has evolved at a much different rate than movies. This is partly due to it being an interactive medium with changes to the interaction methods via Wii-mote and Oculus, but also with advances in technology and design paradigms leading to having a much broader brush to paint our game’s stories and interactive experiences with.
We date our games based more on the graphics and how limiting the interactions are instead of the tropes that movies use. This was useful, except that graphics are now hitting asymptotic-realism where the game and real-life imagery are becoming more indistinguishable which will make it harder to date a game based on the game’s graphics. And with story-driven games becoming more prevalent in the AAA spectrum, it will be hard for ideas to not be incestuous among the gaming community. It’s already incestuous amongst movie productions which is why most movies have so many plug-and-play plot points that they like to hit. It’s not a bad thing, but the story and writing need to be strong around these points for the movie to stand on its own rather than the story being a vehicle to arrive to these plot points.
We can already see some gaming plot points become tropes of themselves. Zombies? Seventh gen (Xbox360, PS3, Wii) games loved to have zombie survival in their games. Looking at you, Call of Duty franchise, Borderlands add-ons, Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising, and The Last of Us. Is running up and traversing buildings a key component in your games? Must be a 7th gen game. Right, Assassin’s Creed, Infamous, Prototype, and Mirror’s Edge? Set-pieces riddling your game and taking your agency, and sometimes your breath, away? Probably playing Uncharted, Call of Duty, God of War, or Tomb Raider (2013). What about majority of games being an FPS? Bioshock, Battlefield, Borderlands, Call of Duty, another 50% of the games in this generation. Much like how platformers dominated the NES/SNES era of gaming, shooters are dominating the current era and quickly becoming a trope for us to identify which period a game came from.
Is there any easy trend that you think will date the games that we’re playing now? Maybe something story based is being heavily repeated and you’re getting sick or it? What about predictions for this gaming generation? Let me know in the jiddly joo below.