I neither know nor care whether video games are or should be considered “art,” but I can tell you that they’re starting to make terrific movies. I don’t really care about 3-D features, but I’m fascinated by the illusion of choice and control offered by games that attempt to allow you to decide how they go. One direction, of course, is that of an open-world sandbox game like Fable, which allows you to travel at your own pace; another comes courtesy of the moral systems found in Fallout and Mass Effect, which provide literal moral compasses that help to invest you in the story. But most engrossing is the cinematic gameplay that Quantic Dream has been producing, from Omikron to Heavy Rain and now, Beyond: Two Souls. You can read the full review over at Slant Magazine: they key takeaway is that although Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe act out the central two roles–a girl, Jodie, with a psychic passenger named Aiden, and a professor who is studying her–it’s really the player who gets to “act” in a series of twenty-five scenes, each fairly unique, spread out in a nonlinear fashion across fifteen developmental years in Jodie’s life.
Granted, you don’t really have all that much control: the scene ends the same way no matter what (more or less). But the things that happen within that scene, or the ways in which you complete, them may differ, and although you may only be completing contextual QTE actions to “play” the game, it’s not as simple as pushing a single button (nor as complex as QWOP). As it turns out, these little things make the player invest more fully in the story, in the same way that films (I’m told) once swept up audiences. Throw in the intriguing mechanics for controlling Aiden, who is essentially a telekinetic ghost, and you’ve got yourself both a film and a game and a piece of art and a hot mess and, at the very least, an intriguing rental.