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Gaming and cinematic industries collide

The "ancient" medium of cinema has met its match in the form of video and computer games. But can the two work together?

"In the past 10 years computer games have become their own subculture," said Florian Stadlbauer, CEO of the successful gaming development company "Deck 13." In recent years, film producers have become aware of the growth within this new medium, Stadlbauer said: "With the development of the games industry, the film industry has become very interested."

Munich Film Festival director Diana Iljine added the new section "games" to this year's program in order to closely examine the association between cinema and the gaming industry. "Visual and narrative similarities exist within both games and movies," she said.

Lord of the fallen screenshot. (Copyright: deck 13)

Similarities exist between video/computer games and cinema, Iljine thinks

Linking different sectors of the cinematic and gaming industry is a major part of Philip Schall's work - the film producer has been interested in computer and video games for a long time. He was entrusted by Iljine with the role of curator of the games section in this year's festival program. Schall sees many parallels between the two sectors - but also the possibility to be creative.

Creative exchange

Screenwriters who write cinematic scripts could also develop games, Schall said. Other creative professionals, like film producers and set designers, could also work in game development.

This is to some extent already being done - especially within the music industry. "I don't know of any film producer who hasn't composed pieces for computer and video games," Schall said.

Where there is a lack of finances for cinematic and television production, multi-platform work provides artists with an opportunity to be creative. In recent years the gaming industry has evolved into a thriving multibillion-dollar business.

Still from the film Wargames

"Wargames," with its hacker theme, is particularly topical

But the games program shown recently at the 31st Munich Film Festival wasn't all about money and future possibilities for creative work. In one film's preview, nine factories dealing more or less with the world of computers and digital transformation were shown.

The classic, referred to fondly by all as the "mother of all games films," is the Disney production "Tron" (pictured at top). Released in 1982, Tron was the first film that integrated extended computer-animated action scenes.

"Wargames" (1983) gave the computer a leading role - telling the story of a young computer nerd who hacks into a top-secret computer system and suddenly sees the front between the US military and the Soviets. Given the events surrounding Edward Snowden, the now world-famous whistleblower, "Wargames" is a highly topical film.

Movies and gaming converge

"Tron" and "Wargames" are examples of the "stone-age" digital era. New films like "Scott Pilgrim against the rest of the world" (2010) varies optics and subjects from computer games on the big screen.

Still from the film A Clockwork Orange

"A Clockwork Orange," though lacking computer animation, has a plotline some consider to be similar to video games

Stanley Kubrick's classic film "A Clockwork Orange" (1971) was a surprise to see in the line-up. Long before the digital revolution, computers played no role in cinematic production. Yet watching "A Clockwork Orange" nowadays has been described as like watching a complicated computer game on the big screen. The film "closely shows the mechanics of how social systems work and how that goal can - or cannot - be achieved. There is a very clear structure in this film," said Schall.

On the same wavelength

"Many films take inspiration from various mediums: from comics, music, subcultures; but also from the world of gaming," Stadlbauer said. Game developers look very closely at what major Hollywood studios are producing.

The Great Jitters: Pudding Panic game screenshot. (Copyright: kunst-stoff, Interactive Media and Games)

"The Great Jitters Pudding Panic" is a game that could be made into a film

Even Berlin-based games developer Patric Rau sees many parallels between cinema and gaming: "There are two aspects: a substantive and a technological influence." The technological aspect is exciting, said Rau, referring to the "second screen" principle. As a consumer, you can sit at home in front of the television screen with a tablet or smart phone and become integrated with the program. Rau is confident this will become the norm.

Future for both

Rau subscribes a big difference between both media. At the cinema, or in front of the television, one is a passive observer. "You sit back, immerse yourself in a world without having to do anything. You don't have to choose."

That is the crucial point, Rau says; "After a busy day, many people don't want to make any more decisions." In a game, players have to choose different options. There isn't meant to be stress, but can sometimes be stressful.

Still from the film Koyaanisqatsi

Video games and film are parallel forms of entertainment, Schall thinks

It appears to be only a matter of time before both the cinematic and gaming industries merge into one. "Film and games won't disappear, but rather become parallel forms of entertainment," said Phillip Schall. Intense cooperation between the two sectors "in the future will only become more intense."

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