Now, Video Verite: Computer Games Used to Look like Crude Cartoons. Now They're Looking a Lot like Hollywood Movies

Article excerpt

Byline: N'gai Croal

If you had just produced the summer's biggest blockbuster, what would you do next? Take a lunch meeting with Denzel? Hop a plane to Cannes? Not Laura Ziskin. The "Spider-Man" producer is in a cramped meeting room at the game industry's annual trade show, the Electronic Enterainment Expo in Los Angeles. Seated to her right is Warren Spector, whose game Deus Ex--the thinking man's first-person shooter and considered by many to be the best PC game of 2000--might well be the source material for Ziskin's next hit. "What's great for us as filmmakers is that we get strong visuals from which to draw inspiration," says Ziskin. "If it were a book or a treatment, that's one thing, but we get the benefit of being visually inspired by the world Warren has created."

It's not just Hollywood insiders that are feeling inspired. In 2001, consumers snapped up $9.4 billion worth of game software and hardware--up 43 percent from the previous year--led by Sony's world-beating PlayStation 2. Noting that the game industry had once again outstripped Hollywood's box-office revenues, the head of Sony's U.S. computer-entertainment division, Kaz Hirai, says his next target is the $18 billion home-video industry. What's clear after spending three days at E3 is that the hype of the past two years, namely that the power of the new consoles and graphics cards would transform games and put them on the same level with movies, music and television, has finally come true.

The box-office success of game-based movies like "Tomb Raider" and "Resident Evil" has prompted others to follow suit. But the reverse is also true, as games are acting more like movies. While working on "Spider-Man," Ziskin helped make sure the game designers had access to everything, allowing Willem Dafoe and Tobey Maguire to voice their game counterparts. Electronic Arts' Lord of the Rings game looks and sounds so much like the movie, right down to the lighting and the score, that anyone who has seen the film will instantly recognize the locations. …