Warning: The following video displays scenes of violence and gunplay. If you don’t like either, don’t watch it.

This comes from something I talked to Jeff about after class last week, but couldn’t remember the name of the game I was trying to think of. This isn’t it, but I found something they say pretty early on to be interesting. Specifically how they are trying to make the game “as immersive and cinematic as Max’s dark story.” And then the pew pew happens as they talk about all the changes they’re making to the mechanics that happen while during gunfights so that the player can see the awesome action sequences as they’re happening without the awkward crab walk that usually comes with first person shooter style games.

The discussion wasn’t about first person shooters, though. It was about borrowing from medium to medium, and how far can that borrowing go before the separate media become too similar to disassociate them (or will it?). Video games are borrowing heavily from cinematic direction in film. Even some 2D scrolling games use the same rules when dealing with close ups of characters talking.

One of the big, heavily borrowed rules of cinematics that was brought into, and still used often today is slow motion combat, or bullet time. These are slightly different things, however. I want to focus on “Bullet Time” however. Bullet time is actually a registered trademark owned by Warner Brothers, although 3D Realms, the company that produced Max Payne (thank http://tvtropes.org for… a lot of this information, actually). Even though it’s used to describe pretty much any slowed down sequence in a game or movie in which we can assume (through either adrenaline or super human powers) the person performing the action is experiencing time in slow motion to where they can see bullets travel. In actuality, the definition involves something more specific like green screens and multiple cameras (The Matrix roof scene is the definition, more or less).

The Matrix is actually the film that is pointed to whenever someone talks about Bullet time, but the first use of it was from a 1981 film called “Kill and Kill Again” (TV tropes says it’s an obscure film, but I’ve heard of it before, so I’m not sure how obscure it is). Max Payne (2001) is often seen as the first video game to use the slow motion distortion in game play, but I found out Jeff and I were both wrong (I thought it was Dead to Rights which came out the year after Max Payne, so Jeff was still closer). The first game to utilize slow motion game play was actually something called “Pathways into Darkness,” (an FPS puzzle game built by Bungie in 1993) but instead of being a natural phenomenon brought on by adrenaline, it was caused by the consumption of a red potion which not only slowed down the game, but distorted sound as well. Unreal Tournament  (1999) was the second game, but it was a command you had to manually type into the console to activate, so I’m not sure if it counts.

I guess the entire point of this is that I find the words of the narrator in the preview for Max Payne 3 interesting when he says they’re “re imagining gun play mechanics.” I know he’s probably talking about the code and 3D modeling that controls how a character looks and acts while wielding said weapon of fiery doom, but it’s interesting how much of their “re imagining” is just borrowing successful framing techniques from already established rules created by Hollywood action movies over the years. Although, I’m not sure Hollywood ever had to deal with the crab walking shooters because their actors weren’t as flexible as needed.

Also, did you hear that the Smithsonian American Art Museum is now opening an exhibit about the art of video games?