Earlier in 2010, we’ve seen the release of Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time, a movie based on one of the most established and pioneering video game stories ever. That movie, believe it or not, proved history wrong and turned out to be a pretty good and entertaining flick – unlike most other video game adaptions we’ve seen before. Now, the reason why this movie was so good might actually be just that: director Mike Newell took the story of Prince of Persia, but other than that stayed away from the game where possible. In fact, in an interview with CVG, he clearly expressed his dislike for video games, as, apparently, they would “bore [his] arse off of [him]” . Now, while I certainly respect Newell’s opinion, I don’t really follow his logic when he explains his reasoning. He admits he barely ever played any video games himself, just watched his assistants play the Prince of Persia game when first doing research for his movie. Also, he apparently has a 14-year-old son who “gets online and he kills people in various scenarios and various parts of the world” for “at least 45 minutes a day”.

Watching the games his assistants or his son played, Newell apparently “didn’t feel anything”. Now, that is pretty fine with me… For most of us, multiplayer-shooters don’t exactly cause much emotional involvement (as they’re a recreational activity that allows to shut down the brain and just relax, not that we’re emotionally so cold we don’t feel anything) and I’m certainly the last person to call the Prince of Persia series a highlight in storytelling. However, the industry and video games in general have come a long way since the days of Pong.

Many games in recent years easily live up to the average quality of movies when it comes to storytelling and atmosphere. Of course, it makes a major difference where you’re looking for good storytelling and atmosphere, but that, and this is what probably is most questionable about Newell’s statements, isn’t any different in movies. The same, of course, applies to the targeted audience. It simply makes a difference whether you’re playing a game – or watching a movie – purely for fun and recreation or you’re looking for an intellectual challenge, emotional involvement, suspense, action, humor or any other emotion for that matter. Some games are better at that than others – obviously – and some simply fail at it. Yet again: this isn’t any different for movies.

Dear Mike Newell, of all the variety video games in the 21st century have to offer, you have definitely picked some of those examples that don’t really excel, at least not in what you seem to be interested in. Judging a whole growing industry, even a cultural movement based on that just isn’t right. At some point, I might return to this idea and post a couple of games that can easily be considered to be emotionally touching or good at storytelling and creating atmosphere. For now, however, I’d like to conclude this entry with some final food for thought: as much, if not even more, it is up to a video game or a movie to provoke a reaction or create a feeling in its audience, it is up to the audience to be willing, ready and open enough to allow themselves to have these reactions and feelings.