Learning from Hollywood

I recently found this very interesting series of short videos on The Escapist. It’s basically a short summary of the history of Hollywood. See, it’s easy to look at Hollywood as this constant, unchanging entity. After all, movies are a pretty solid, mature medium and Hollywood is the poster child of a well-oiled entertainment industry. Personally, I was born in the 80ies, so I have never known Hollywood any different. So I found this kind of look on the history of Hollywood rather interesting.

Of course, none of this is really new or surprising. But I found this a fascinating way to put everything into a coherent picture. And of course, as somebody so interested in the games industry, it’s hard for me not to see the parallels to what the AAA games industry is doing right now.

The TV of the games industry are clearly the iPhone games. The kind of dilemma Hollywood had to deal with when TV came out is exactly the kind of dilemma pictured in this PA strip. The traditional games industry hasn’t been developing products for anything else than entertainment. As more money was funneled into productions, the production values grew, but the goals of the project (ENTERTAIMENTZZZ!!! HERPDERP) remained the same. This lead to the bizarre situation where a bunch of 99 cent iPhone game can actually compete with a single 40 dollar game. We are left with an industry that has failed to learn how to turn money into substance.

But as always, there are also differences. For example, Hollywood turned to young film students which eventually saved the bacon and established Hollywood as what it is today. Will AAA do the same? Somewhat doubtful. I hardly see the next AAA projects being led by the creative influx from game studies. Because unlike in movies, you can be successful as a self-published indie if you have the creative ideas. So there is actually no reason for any game studies alumni to go AAA.

On the other hand, the demographic left behind by AAA games are not the young people as was the case with Hollywood in the 70ies. The reverse it’s true. Games were always targeted at children and adolescents. The audience that still can’t find their home are the adults… and that’s even more true for the female audience.

There is one horror story ending in this. Namely that the way to reach the adult audience is with even MORE brain-washed, simpleton entertainment. Exactly the kind of entertainment Hollywood needed to get away from to appeal to an adolescent audience. And we all know that perhaps this has already happened with Brain Training and Farmville.

But recent experiences with TRAUMA led me to believe that there is also a significant audience waiting for games with substance and meaning. From this point of view, Hollywood didn’t succeed because the catered to a specific age group, but because they increased the depth of the medium they work with in general. Thus, allowing for a wider spectrum of the audience to be addressed.

Needless to say, I will definitely continue trying to confirm that hunch. Because I’d rather not be a game developer otherwise. ;)

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

One response to “Learning from Hollywood”

  1. Alexnader

    I got back to this site from RPS, then scrolled down to find a re-post of Movie Bob’s stuff from the escapist. Awesome.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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