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Cinematization of Video Games in the Ludic Universe of Hideo Kojima Thesis

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Updated: Jun 18th, 2022

Cinema and television were paramount and the most influential media of the last century. Currently, video games have become one of the primary sources of entertainment surrounded by a continuously increasing consolidating culture, marking the beginning of the post-cinematic era. The gaming industry overpowers both the music and cinema industries and is considered one of the fastest-growing economic sectors globally – video games are becoming a predominant human activity (Muriel & Crawford, 2018). Nonetheless, in contemporary cultural discourse, different media types are viewed as intertwined at a profound level. In cinema and game studies, a conclusion apropos of strong interconnection between these two media has been reached (Muriel & Crawford, 2018). More precisely, cinema undergoes gamification while games are being cinematized: the two media appropriate each other’s elements and technologies, expanding the possibilities they offer separately.

Although the place that films occupy in people’s daily lives is more and more reduced, the aesthetics, narrative modes, and technologies employed in them continue to transform gaming. Scholars in game studies indicate that it became more film-like over the last decade: modern games increasingly implement cinematic techniques in storytelling and style (Muriel & Crawford, 2018). The alteration can be attributed to the growing accessibility of digital technologies used in movie production. Since the time gaming consoles were invented, the gameplay underwent significant alterations, a considerable part of which was due to mimicking cinema. These changes are reflected in the incorporation of voice-acting, motion capture, and camerawork, which allowed games to be more engaging and immersive. Furthermore, to make them more cinematographic, the film footage become transformed into rendered graphics. The way in-game cameras are programmed presently incorporates techniques and moves used in standard camera work, among them: zooming in and out, trucking, point-of-view shots, tilting, panning, pedestal shots, down shots, and close-ups (Muriel & Crawford, 2018). Game developers made extreme efforts to include film aesthetics into video games to create a new enhanced reality for gamers.

Unlike painters, musicians, writers, or directors, video game creators tend to remain estranged from mainstream media and go unnoticed by the general public. This generalization has a noticeable exception – Hideo Kojima, creator of atmospheric and fascinating Death Stranding. What is remarkable about this video game designer is his attitude to cinema and borrowing of its aesthetics. Kojima has been proclaimed a Quentin Tarantino of the gaming industry, as the two apply postmodern techniques with abundance, yet in different media (Chen, 2020). Kojima’s works are particularly cinematized and appear to be video novels or adaptations of actions and dystopian movies. Even though the web designer is not an innovator in this aspect – cinema aesthetics and storytelling have been tested in games before – what is exceptional is how Kojima manages to implement these elements without sabotaging gamers’ interactive experience (Chen, 2020). His works contain regular alterations between player engagement and straightforward linear storytelling that dull the playing experience in many other video games. The main difference that allows Kojima’s creations to escape the same fate is how smoothly their narrative parts morph into active ones.

The video game designer is recognized for prolonged artistic cut scenes and fusing large portions of cinematic sequences. For that matter, the use of cinematic narrative in console video games at large can be attributed to Kojima (Chen, 2020). Thus, in his ultimate work, Death Stranding, “reviewers praised the subversive nature of the gameplay, the cinematic storytelling, the forthright tackling of political and social themes” (Chen, 2020, par. 66). As a commercial studio auteur, Kojima and others who belong to the same category, use cinematic aesthetics for games comparable to independent festival films created for a niche audience, and Death Stranding qualifies. The cinematic elements in Kojima’s video games organically merge with integrative ones, not disrupting the immersiveness of virtual reality. From the movie industry, the video games designer took Hollywood-like storytelling, orchestral score, convincing voice acting, and compelling narratives stemming from socially poignant problems (Chen, 2020). It could be stated that Kojima is a pioneer of cinematized gaming.

Auteurism in video games is another phenomenon that allows their cinematization. This assumption can be applied to Koshima’s works in which his singular artistic vision dominates the entirety of the creative process. It seems essential to accentuate that the notion of “auteur” is chiefly used in cinema from where it drifted into gaming conjointly with other elements (Hakimi, 2017). Adopting the auteurism theoretical framework to the industry under consideration helps place multiple games in the category of artworks, which they seemingly have been denied for a long time. Nonetheless, not all of them should be viewed as art, normally only smaller independent productions are. According to Hakimi (2017), “this does not mean that all indie games are considered works by auteurs, but they are certainly more predisposed to be apprehended in this manner than mainstream studio productions” (p. 228). For instance, Kojima’s latest works are the product of an independent studio – Kojima Productions. The studio is not one of its kind, as auteurist productions multiple in the gaming industry (Hakimi, 2017). Overall, the phenomenon of auteurism could elevate video games’ status and facilitate its introduction into the high-art discourse.

The video game industry is in continuous search of ways to enhance gamers’ satisfaction. Improving graphics and gameplay are the habitual ways to achieve that; however, the gaming market becomes more difficult to surprise. Virtual reality (VR) gaming could be the answer for individuals seeking a more immersive experience. VR head‑mounted displays have already been commercialized and are distinguished by their relative affordability and immersiveness. The idea that VR leads to more absorbing gaming than standard consoles is supported by research. A study conducted by Shelstad et al. (2017) demonstrated that when gamers played using VR headsets, “they found it more engrossing, enjoyable, open to creative freedom, and had better audio and visual aesthetics” (p. 2075). This new medium interests Kojima, who is yet to develop a VR project but views it as a domain with vast opportunities (Feltham, 2020). Nevertheless, the demand for VR games is still somewhat smaller in comparison to traditional consoles.

Video games are a burgeoning industry that eclipses once conventional sources of entertainment. Gaming is a post-cinematic experience that still is intertwined with cinema on several levels. From narrative techniques to camera work, gaming borrowed and assimilated cinematic aesthetics and thrived in it. Moreover, video games continue to be cinematized, mostly smaller independent productions. Such video game auteurs as Koshima gradually reach similar levels of recognition, although in smaller circles, as mainstream Hollywood directors. The gaming industry actively changes and evolves, steadily searching for new ways to satisfy gamers around the world.

References

Chen, A. (2020). Hideo Kojima’s strange, unforgettable video-game worlds. Web.

Feltham, J. (2020). Metal gear creator Hideo Kojima is judging Venice’s online VR film festival. Web.

Hakimi, J. (2017). Designing Auteurs: Video games, authorship, and MoMA. Écrans – Politique des auteurs / Auteur theory. Lectures contemporaines, 2(6), pp. 207-225.

Muriel, D., & Crawford, G. (2018). Video games as culture: Considering the role and importance of video games in contemporary society. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Shelstad, W. J., Smith, D. C., & Chaparro, B. S. (2017). Gaming on the Rift: How virtual reality affects game user satisfaction. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 61(1), 2072–2076.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Cinematization of Video Games in the Ludic Universe of Hideo Kojima." June 18, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cinematization-of-video-games-in-the-ludic-universe-of-hideo-kojima/.

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