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The brilliance of Heavy Rain's marketing
Posted on Friday, February 12 2010 @ 20:46:23 PST

The description of Heavy Rain as an "interactive movie/drama/story" has upset some gamers. But it is ingenious for two reasons:

  1. It appeals to a wide audience. Newsflash: Unless you're someone who games, and games often, you don't really think of games as having a movie quality or a story, or even a dramatic story. Many people still think gaming is pressing buttons to do stuff on a screen. They don't necessarily think of gaming as an activity that involves a story of significant caliber.
  2. It describes what is unique about video games as a medium.
First, let's get one thing straight: Games can tell wonderful, enjoyable stories. So what.

Now, let's focus on reason two.

Games shouldn't be relegated to simply telling stories. Much more, they allow players to change stories. Players do this through the one thing that sets games apart from other entertainment media—interactivity.

Imagine sitting in a movie theater and watching Avatar. Instead of simply watching and being wowed or sick behind your 3D glasses, at various points throughout the movie, you can perform an action—maybe a dance; a toss of popcorn at someone; a screech—to change the sequence of events in the movie. Based on whatever action you perform, the movie changes. It's as if you have the script, wearing a director's hat, and can make any change you want. That's what a game is.*

As gamers, we know this is why games are unique. Many others don't, so perhaps a game such as Heavy Rain, and its description as an "interactive movie" will help more people see that games can offer not only engaging stories but also the ability to change stories.

(* End note: Of course, many games don't permit widescale story changes. You can perform many different actions using a game's gameplay, but relatively few of those actions make a difference in changing a game's overall story. Perhaps Heavy Rain will show whether gamers want the ability to branch a game's story, and spur developers to create more varied stories than the model of Beginning, Stuff Happens, Ending that allow players to interact and change stories.)
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