Yahoo is running a slightly streamlined version of an interview I did with Steven Spielberg as part of their “Celebrity Bytes” series. The following exchange didn’t make the cut, which is understandable given the target audience and that the interview was supposed to be specifically about his involvement with Boom Blox. But I found it an interesting bit of insight into how one of the most prominent determinants of American culture views videogames.
TC: Is there anything over the least year that you’ve played that really grabbed you?
SS: There have been a lot of games, including all the sequels, for Medal of Honor that I’ve really admired. I love the direction it’s taken. I also like the competitive games. I’m currently playing Call of Duty 4. A lot of these first person shooters are very interesting.
TC: A lot of surprising and indeed very violent things happen in Call of Duty 4. I don’t want to spoil it, but have you gotten to any sort of amazing “Holy cow!” moments yet?
SS: Not yet, because I just began. Should I expect something like that?
TC: They do a couple of things that videogames don’t normally do. I’d be curious what you think but I don’t want to ruin it for you. Suffice to say you’re in for some nice twists.
SS: That’s good. You know the thing that doesn’t work for me in these games are the little movies where they attempt to tell a story in between the playable levels. That’s where there hasn’t been a synergy between storytelling and gaming. They go to a lot of trouble to do these [motion-capture] movies that explain the characters. And then the second the game is returned to you and it’s under your control, you forget everything the interstitials are trying to impact you with, and you just go back to shooting things. And that has not found its way into a universal narrative. And I think more has to be done in that arena.
TC: Some games avoid those cutscenes altogether. Are you familiar with Half-Life?
SS: Yeah, I’ve played Half-Life, of course. But some games will not let you quit out. I think Battlefield: Bad Company, which I played though, doesn’t let you escape the interstitials.
TC: It’s a dilemma for gamemakers. They don’t have the freedom moviemakers have with a single medium, since they have to transition between storytelling and gameplay.
SS: I do applaud them for trying the storytelling. It’s important to try to invest in these characters you don’t get to see when you’re playing them. You only get to see them during the little movies. But you don’t get to see the faces or recognize the foxhole buddies when you’re just targeting the enemy. Yet I applaud them for at least attempting to tell a story.
TC: Do you feel that filmmakers can learn anything from videogames? And if so, what?
SS: I think filmmakers are learning things from videogames. Movies are starting to look more and more like videogames, like the digital introductory teasers videogames give you before they turn control over to the player. A lot of movies, like this movie with Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy called Wanted. It had a lot of videogame savvy. The Bourne Ultimatum had a lot of videogame savvy in the quick cuts and the audacity of camera angle.