Siobhan Keogh 's Opinion

Siobhan Keogh is the NZ Herald's gaming blogger.

Siobhan Keogh: When TV and games play nice

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TV versus games? Siobhan Keogh thinks they can actually work together.
Games could learn a lot about character development from the likes of Breaking Bad.
Games could learn a lot about character development from the likes of Breaking Bad.

Video games have always been influenced by other mediums. Books, movies, and music have been stamping their names on video games for decades, and for the most part games have been better for it. (Movies have not been better for being influenced by games, however. I'm looking at you, Uwe Boll.)

It's only in the last few years though, that I've started to notice games increasingly being influenced by TV, and vice versa.

Developer Telltale Games is the obvious and prime example here - the developer has taken on an episodic, TV-like structure with its new game series The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. The games are even divided into seasons - The Walking Dead is now in season two.

But the company has also realised that in-depth character studies are what fans want from their games - and that's the same key factor that brings fans back to TV dramas. Characters are realised over time and over several episodes, not in the few minutes a movie might have to spare before it cuts to the next action scene.

Telltale, of course, is just an indie developer, although an extremely successful one. The big companies have been taking cues from the screen as well.

Before the release of Halo 4, Microsoft Studios and 343 Industries released Forward Unto Dawn, a web series based on the Halo games. The series tied into Halo 4 - it featured some of the same characters - and director Stewart Handler called it "the best-funded web series of all time". The series featured TV actors like Tom Green - the Aussie actor, not the Canadian comedian - and Supernatural's Osric Chau.

And then there are the games where the storylines run in parallel with a TV counterpart, and sometimes the worlds even meet. Third-person open-world MMO Defiance is one such example. While the game wasn't particularly well-received - and neither was the show - the concept of a TV/game crossover was interesting. In Defiance, characters that appeared in the TV show of the same name would show up in the MMO where their story arc would continue.

Upcoming game Quantum Break plans to take the concept of a TV/game crossover even further - how you play the game will actually have an impact on the TV series. Developer Remedy Entertainment adds that "the show informs how you play the game". Not a lot of information is available about it yet, and no release date has been set, but the result could either be very good or very bad.

My theory is that books, film and music are all mediums that have been respected and revered for a long time. Television, however, is relatively new to its status as a meaningful artistic medium. In recent years people have started to notice the way that building a character over several seasons, rather than the couple of hours you get in a movie, makes that character more compelling. And as TV dramas with robust storylines have gained in popularity, showrunners have gotten more money to work with. That's how we wind up with well-written, high-quality shows like Breaking Bad.

A lot of gamers aren't keen on the increasingly cinematic nature of games - the way the focus is on having pretty cutscenes rather than gameplay - and I understand that point of view. But TV is right up there with games as one of my favourite mediums, and I personally love the idea of the two tying into each other more and more so long as showrunners and developers take equal care.

Bring on Quantum Break - I'm psyched.

Siobhan Keogh

Siobhan Keogh is the NZ Herald's gaming blogger.

Siobhan Keogh has been playing video games for almost as long as she's been able to read. Her passion for games started with Sonic the Hedgehog and Alex Kidd in Miracle World, grew when she discovered the Final Fantasy series as a teenager, and became near-obsessive when she worked as games editor for PC World magazine. She'll play almost every kind of game there is, from shooters to strategies to adventure games to Peggle, on any platform she can get her hands on. Her love of games isn't limited to the screen - she also plays both board and card games on the tabletop. When she's not gaming, she's tweeting lame jokes about games on Twitter. Occasionally she takes a breather from that and talks about running and fitness instead. Siobhan works as community manager for New Zealand's largest locally-owned technology company, but her views on gaming are her own.

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