I finally spent some time to update the FMV list of the games and also got a chance to reflect on what I was doing for the last couple months. I think I have opened Pandora’s Box and the task is bigger than I ever anticipated (also called “freaking scope creep”, which is something I should be aware of).
The more I sniffed around FMV titles the list grew. Firstly 600 titles, then 800, and at this point over 1200. As of this moment, it is still growing and it is driving me crazy. However, just making a list is not enough for me. My goal is to bring as many FMV titles back from the abyss and categorize them. I want to find similarities, common themes, something that can be used by anyone for whatever dark purpose they wish. As my “research” progressed, columns were added and I realized that I am getting ahead of myself and need to also lay some terminology and categorization groundwork. Thankfully there is no need to reinvent the wheel and I mostly inspired myself (aka shamelessly copied) from well-established sites like mobygames.com or imdb.com.
Firstly, I should explain where the list of games is coming from. It is a mix of various resources, such as already mentioned mobygames.com, imdb.com, fmvworld.com, archive.org, tvtropes.org and over a thousand issues of various magazines (Computer Gaming World, EDGE, PC Zone, PC Review).
Most basic information saved about these titles is release year. There is a long road ahead of me in confirming this data as not all I gathered is correct. I have to check every single title and confirm either from the manual, game box or some other source. Assigning year to each title helps in establishing the timeline of evolution, peak, and decline of the FMV in general. We are talking about something that started in the year 1967 with an experimental interactive movie, progressed through 70ties with the invention of projectors (Nintendo arcades) and firmly established itself with the Laserdisc technology in 80ties. Then it disappeared for few years and emerged with the 4th generation of consoles and increased availability of IBM PCs in early 90ties.
One of the weaknesses I felt in mobygames.com was that it tracked only original footage made specifically for the game and not licensed content from movies or some other source. Why is it interesting to keep track of games that used licensed clips? Primarily some games that used licensed footage used it in an unusual way, heavily edit it to create a different narrative (Waterworld) or used interesting codec or technology (Dune by Cryo). Therefore, I decided to include also titles using licensed footage or used mix of original/licensed content.
Next big step was to specify the type of FMV used and this is where the struggle began. In the end, I decided to distinguish 4 types of FMV content. Interactive Movie, Cinematics, Clips and Introduction/Ending.
Interactive Movie – Gameplay relies heavily on full motion video, either in the form of interaction or just pure amount of content presented. Sample – rail shooters like MadDog, adventure Johny Mnemonic.
Cinematics – Gameplay and FMV parts separated pretty clearly. Cinematics are supplemental to the gameplay and usually, work as exposition to the narrative (they are though very important to game experience – example Command and Conquer series).
Clips – Small FMV clips within the game (either during gameplay or in between missions/levels), usually shorter than 30 seconds or no direct connection to the game plot. Example. Aliens versus Predator.
Introduction/Ending – Minimal FMV content, either used only in an introduction, ending or both. Usually used in sports games (NHL series).
Next, game genres. This was a no-brainer and I used general genres as defined in Wikipedia/MobyGames. However, I realized most of the games/titles skewed towards the specific genre. Most common was Adventure and very often started creeping in the list also Edutainment and in relation also Multimedia. Edutainment “games” threw the whole system off and I realized I need to cover more ground on this front too and bring in also Multimedia genre as there is a big amount of titles that is cannot put into “game” box (e.g Laurie Anderson’s Puppet Motel).
General typography of genres was not diverse enough. Adventure can mean almost anything so I needed something that would put the game in a more specific box so I could visualize it. These sub-genres will gradually expand and some of the rework on the list will be needed but for now, each genre has more or less 3 subgenres. For already mentioned adventure game it is; interactive movie, Myst-like adventure and point-and-click. Similarly, for Strategy genre there is; 4x, turn-based strategy and real-time strategy. You get the gist.
Genres and subgenres help with splitting the games a little but I ended up still with too big and unmanageable clusters. My aim was to group games in somewhat manageable but clear groups with themes. A common denominator in this cases could be almost anything. It can be series of games anchored in the same universe (Wing Commander, Star Wars), it can be in the form/usage of FMV footage (e.g. historical./documentary footage in war games) or just a common theme of the games (medical games).
Then I realized I created two themes that are not directly live action FMV but are very close tied with it. One is digitized games (Mortal Kombat). They do not belong to FMV games but I would like to explore their mechanics and technology because of their influence on the FMV. There are also some games and techniques that are worth exploring and remembering in relation to live-action FMV (rotoscoping technique in Another World or Prince of Persia, stop-animation in Neverhood). I still need to figure out if there is going to be a separate tab in the XLS or I will keep them in the master sheet.
One of the last major parts is something I called “keywords” column. This is going to be most tricky and time-consuming part. I was inspired by tags that imdb.com uses. It should convey in few words what the story/plot of the game is (terrorism, oil crisis), something specific about the title or just highlight the name of a famous developer or actor (example Rob Landeros or Tim Curry).
Last but not least there will be standard columns for platforms on which the game was released (potential problem here is that some games had FMV on some platforms and on some they were stripped), publisher and developer of the game. For now, I am also keeping columns description and note but I have not yet decided what to do with them. There is also a possibility that I will include links either to outside source or to internal review/overview page as they will get created in future (in next 10 years or so).
So this was shortly overview of what I was doing last couple weeks and the train of thought behind it. Eventually, I will be able to correlate some interesting information from this dataset and this could lead me to some basic observation such as:
What was the year of the biggest boom in FMV?
What was the most favorite platform?
What company produced most FMV games? (hint: it was not Digital Pictures)
What was the most common theme in the FMV?
But with more detailed data set I can pinpoint more information easily and also discover some interesting ideas for articles.
What is next? Tweaking out and finalizing legend, going game by game and confirming data or filling out blanks and finally starting to write! And write a lot!
If you are interested, go and browse a list a little, let me know if I am missing some games. I will add them in next few months after I recover from this update 🙂
Seriously last note: how much work do I still have?
- I still have low coverage of very old consoles and technologies (Laserdisc, Halcyon, Laser Clay, VHS consoles – NEMO, ActionMax etc.)
- I should have pretty good coverage of DOS and Windows games. I lack however visibility into Edutainment and Multimedia (however, my original intent was never to cover these so these are low priority)
- I should have pretty good coverage of consoles of 4th and 5th generation but I admit there are gaps in more obscure consoles such as Laseractive, Tandy VIS, Neo Geo CD.
- Console generations after 6th had only marginal usage of live action FMV so I am not investing too much time in researching them. I am sure I am missing out on “many” titles.
- I have low coverage of foreign titles in general. I think I will keep what I have for now and will not actively pursue more.