Video games and movies are considered among the most popular hobbies in the modern world. Watching a movie or playing a video game allows one to spend pastime with pleasure and experience various emotions and states of mind, such as satisfaction, thrill, or relaxation. Overall, both mediums serve as a potent source of entertainment but, at the same time, can touch on more serious matters and evoke thoughts and reactions that go beyond simple enjoyment. Despite the common belief, I would argue that movies offer a more immersive and rewarding experience than video games.
In my opinion, the video game industry successfully adopted distinctive features of filmmaking and created a unique product in the aftermath. In particular, I can define two key similarities that video games share with cinema. Most importantly, both mediums can act as storytelling tools, as video games gradually shifted to a more cinematic approach to plot and character development (Ruimy). A typical movie usually has a strong backbone in the form of a well-structured story (Peders). Modern role-playing games (RPGs) or action-adventures like Deus Ex, Far Cry, or Uncharted usually feature a cast of professional voice actors and present a narrative that resembles a complex movie script. In this regard, one can claim that video game writing has become close to filmmaking standards.
Secondly, movies and video games target similar sensory channels to engage and satisfy the audience. Immersion and atmosphere are created through graphics, visual effects, and soundtrack. Video games of the past struggled with limited technology and had to rely on low-quality handmade animations. The computer-generated imagery (CGI) and motion capture technologies made it possible for the video game industry to close the gap and offer an equally impressive experience to the players (Ruimy). However, similarly to the movies, a well-crafted atmosphere and a good sense of style can outweigh the lack of groundbreaking technology. From personal experience, Darkest Dungeon, a turn-based roguelike RPG, is a fine example of such a game. A combination of 2D Gothic art style, grim soundtrack, and sarcastic remarks from the narrator creates a genuine feel of a desperate fight against the darkness despite the game’s technical simplicity.
Regardless, the true value of video games lies in their unique features that cannot be replicated by cinema. In particular, I highlight three aspects that make video games a more immersive and rewarding hobby than movies. Most importantly, video games offer a significantly greater degree of personal participation. Whereas movies let the audience sit back and relax or reflect on the story, video games turn the player into its most important character (Peders). On the one hand, viewers do not influence events unfolding in the movie, as they are pre-scripted by the screenwriter. On the other hand, video game players can do whatever they want as their freedom is restricted only by in-game mechanics. For example, nothing stops a Skyrim player from postponing the main quest for an indefinite time and focusing on exploration. In this regard, video games allow the player to immerse into content and directly shape it instead of being merely a consumer.
Additionally, video games provide a player with a highly customized experience due to the replayability factor. One can argue that it is possible to rewatch a movie later in life and find new, previously hidden meanings. However, the plot, the characters, and the events of the movie will remain unchanged. At the same time, replayability can create an entirely new story, which is especially noticeable in the case of RPGs. For example, I had a completely different experience with the Mass Effect trilogy when I played through it for a second time. The first version of Commander Shepard was empathetic, noble, and self-sacrificing, as one can expect from a space opera protagonist. During the second playthrough, I roleplayed as a ruthless and cynical veteran. The total change of morality resulted in a completely different outcome. Instead of a happy ending at the cost of the protagonist’s death, I created a potentially violent future that only military sociopaths would enjoy. In this regard, a video game allowed me to customize my personal experience to a degree impossible for cinema.
Lastly, video games offer a greater diversity of genres that can satisfy any taste. When it comes to cinema, it is possible to name a few key genres, such as drama, comedy, and action. In contrast, video games have a virtually unlimited supply of choices. The possibilities are endless — from shooters to simulators, from strategies to RPGs, a player can take up almost any role. For instance, those who love strategy games can wear an emperor’s mantle in Crusader Kings or lead their favorite soccer club to greatness in Football Manager. As such, it is possible to find an enjoyable video game for any mood and personality.
Given these considerations, one can list three reasons that make video games a more rewarding and immersive entertainment medium than movies. Firstly, the video game industry has bridged the technological gap with the cinema. Secondly, scriptwriting in video games has become significantly closer to filmmaking standards. Lastly, video games offer the audience several unique advantages, such as personal participation, customization through replayability, and greater genre diversity. Therefore, one should not feel ashamed or wrong if they enjoy video games more than cinema.
Peders, Beverley. “Film vs. Video Games from a Screenwriter’s Perspective.” WeScreenplay, 2018, Web.
Ruimy, Jordan. “Movies and Gaming – Similar yet Distinct Medium.” World of Reel, 2019, Web.