Earlier today, Ellen Page sat down with a small group of reporters to discuss her work in the new game from Quantic Dreams Studios, “Beyond: Two Souls.” I just got my copy of the game today and played a grand total of about twelve minutes while I was waiting to talk to her, but I can tell you already that anyone who played the game “Heavy Rain” will recognize many of that game’s design ideas in this game, and there is no doubt when you look at it in motion that the lead character is meant to be Ellen Page.
We discussed the game, and I’ll run that material for you tomorrow. First, though, I wanted to bring you a short bit from the end of our conversation. Right now, there’s such a huge back-and-forth energy between Hollywood and the gaming community that I wanted to know if after this experience she would be willing to play her “X-Men” character for a game adaptation.
Right now, I feel like the relationship that Hollywood has with gaming is all wrong and that’s true on both sides of the equation. Hollywood still sees games based on their material as mere excuses to market the movies, and it seems like they don’t really care if they’re making good games or not. They pay lip service to it, but it’s become pretty much accepted wisdom that more often than not, a game based on a film is going to be terrible. I would have loved it if the “Star Trek” game this summer had been really strong and interesting experience on its own, one that expanded the world and the characters while giving the player a chance to feel like they were part of that world, and instead, it turned out be barely functional. I can’t count how many times I’ve tried a game based on something I love and by the end of an hour or so of play, I’m not even sure I like the underlying property anymore. A big part of the problem is the short production window many of these games face. I have trouble believing they haven’t even thought about an “X-Men” game for next year, but if Page hasn’t heard anything at all, it seems like it’s too late for them to start involving the film’s cast if they expect to make anything good.
Likewise, I don’t know if I want games to try to be like movies that you play. I understand that Quantic Dreams is trying to do something very specific. Gameplay is meant to be invisible in their games. They don’t want you thinking about the mechanics of what you’re doing. Instead, it feels like they want to create a seamless narrative experience that is influenced by choices you make, and they want these experiences to be strongly driven by performance. I admired “Heavy Rain” as a technical experiment, but I felt like it fell short as an overall game experience. I liked what I saw of “Beyond: Two Souls” today, and I certainly hope it is more successful at balancing its various goals.
I’ll have the rest of my chat with Page for you tomorrow. For now, check out her reaction to this particular question, and you can find “Beyond: Two Souls” in stores now for the PS3 and “X-Men: Days Of Future Past” will be in theaters May 23, 2014.