Keeping It Real...
When Sega released its first CD-Rom drives in 1992, ‘Full Motion Video’ (FMV) was hailed as the future. Games like Wing Commander III, Night Trap and Rebel Assault featured FMV of real-life actors who the player controlled.
“These games are like movies, with scripts almost two feet thick,” claimed Mark Hamill, who supplemented his Star Wars income playing Col ‘Maverick’ Blair in the Wing Commander series, a trend that’s continued right up to this year’s shooter WET, starring Eliza Dushku and, er, Malcolm McDowell...
While Hollywood and gaming were tarting to see eye-to-eye, the new realism brought problems of its own.
Censors railed against the synthesized sprites ripping out each other’s spinal chords in Mortal Kombat and Night Trap was vilified in the 1993 Senate hearings on videogame violence, mainly because most of the politicians didn’t understand the game – you were trying to save the college girls from vampires, not rape and murder.
Hollywood looked on, glad it wasn’t in the line of fire for a change. Was Hollywood worried about FMV? Maybe a little bit.
As videogames looked like they were closing the gap between movies and gaming, producers undoubtedly knew that a paradigm shift was happening. Licensed games were big business.
Hits like Batman Returns on the Super Nintendo proved that. Shelves groaned with titles like Lethal Weapon, Dune and Terminator 2. There was even a Plan 9 From Outer Space adventure game. But the Holy Grail was ‘synergy’ – combining a game and movie to boost the profits of both.
When Super Mario Bros. became the first game to shift 10m copies, it was only a matter of time until a studio exec said, “I want that... as a movie”.