Video game representation in media used to be utterly embarrassing. Movies based on popular video game franchises like Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros, or Mortal Kombat are still regarded as some of the worst films ever made. The sad part is that many of us used to defend them because we were at least happy our hobby was being noticed every now and then.
For the last twenty years the TV and film industry dealt with video games like they were a fad that refused to go away. Many times I wanted to cry foul for every inconsistent or incorrect representation of my dear hobby: “Video games don’t sound like that anymore! That’s not an actual game! Stop shaking the controller you dumb actor; that’s not how we look while we’re playing!”
A couple of decades later, 2012’s Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph—a major animated film about video game characters traversing through different video game inspired worlds—was such a popular and critical success that a sequel is currently being discussed. Meanwhile a film based on the Assassin’s Creed franchise is in the works, and while the quality is still uncertain, the sweet time and resources they’re taking to make it are an indication that at least they’re trying to make it right. This level of care is something that was lacking in the production of the 2010 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time movie, which was supposed to kick off a franchise on par with Pirates of the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the end result was not as spectacular as many hoped for.
Let’s not forget that in that same year we got an amazingly well-made movie—based on a comic inspired by video games—like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. However, despite cast, the writing, the effects, the respect for the source material, and fighting scenes so good that would make you forget you were watching a comedy, the film ended up flopping at the box office. The odds of seeing a similar project taking off again seemed daunting, but five years later we see something like Adam Sandler’s Pixels (let’s pretend the movie was any good just for a second) seeing the light and—at least financially—did alright. Now let’s just hope that it’s critical bashing manages to make it harder for Sandler to get his hands on any other piece of nostalgia in the future.
On the other hand, maybe it’s not that the media is getting better at talking about video games, but actually is that people who “get it” are the ones calling the shots these days. Now we have geek icons like Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman making a Mythbusters episode on videogames, or Stephen Colbert just being great at tackling anything topic related to gaming.
On a smaller scale, YouTube channels like CrashCourse and In a Nutshell (previously Kurzgesagt), cover all kinds of different subjects on history, health, psychology, etc. To drive their points home, they use—among other geeky things—video game elements and imagery so masterfully merged that it’s accessible to anyone watching, whether they’re gamers or not. And last time I checked, using anything in favor of education and awareness is a good thing.
Despite what some people in the video game community might believe, the fact that more people are becoming aware of our hobby is a great thing. Video games have become wide and diverse enough to reach an ever bigger audience. Not only is it natural that more people are being drawn into the conversation, but also necessary if we expect video games keep evolving as a media.
We may be approaching to the best times video games have ever had, and it’ll be even better if we can openly share—both the good and the bad—with everyone around us.Image Credits: Walt Disney Animated Classics