In 2007, the video game industry officially and decisively pulled away from the film, music, and publishing industries in accrued yearly revenue. Last year, the gaming industry as a whole raked in over sixty five billion dollars in the United States alone, while the film industry pulled in a comparatively paltry ten billion and change in the same year.
To truly drive home the disparity between what the gaming industry considers a blockbuster as compared to the studio system, The Avengers, the third highest grossing film of all time with a total of $1,511,757,910 worldwide, nailed its first 373 million in ten days.
Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops II reached a staggering 800 million -- in five.
Not only are games killing it in the revenue department, they're also becoming increasingly high profile, with stories written by professional screenwriters, and voice actors with big names. The upcoming PlayStation 3 exclusive Beyond: Two Souls features veteran actor , the Academy Award nominated , and is scored by Inception composer . It was screened in its entirely, like a film, at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
This begs the question, if games are becoming an increasingly undeniable source of mainstream entertainment with deep narrative arcs, beautiful sound and visuals, and actors clamoring for parts, should we perhaps move beyond the idea that games need to be adapted to film? Maybe, we have reached a critical point in the timeline of gaming where the our collective mindset has shifted, and we can ask a larger question.
Are games essentially a form of cinema in of themselves?
Arguably the most talked about title in gaming right now is Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto V which will be in the hands of eager gamers come midnight on the 18th of September. Few games represent the concept of a franchise steeped in fantastic storytelling and memorable characters better. With seventeen years, and fifteen stories between new releases and expansion content under its belt, the GTA series is a documentation of how the gaming industry has grown over the years visually, aurally, and on the writer's page.
From ex-mobsters busting kneecaps in Vice City, to Eastern European tough guys trying to live the American dream in Liberty City, to our current trio of criminal type running roughshod over Los Santos, Grand Theft Auto has built a reputation of turning gaming into an interactive cinematic experience.
Yes, a Grand Theft Auto film is almost certainly going to occur, and the verdict is still out whether or not filmmakers have finally learned to give game-to-film adaptations the proper respect and deference they deserve. The upcoming Assassin's Creed and Splinter Cell films will be solid barometers to measure that question.
Regardless of the answer, it feels safe to say at this point in the existence of games as art, that even if these and other adaptations fail in theaters, their continued dominance on our television and laptop screens is a testament to their cinematic value.
Games like Grand Theft Auto V may very well be spoken of and debated for their narrative value by film lovers alongside contemplations of Taxi Driver and Citizen Kane in the not so distant future.