Love, Death & Robots S1 • E2, 2019

Video games, Cinematic Images and Artificial Intelligence

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Final Fantasy, Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Tomb Raider...: for decades, film adaptations and, more recently, TV series adaptations of video games keep on increasing. This is not surprising, considering the cinematographic potential of video games (graphics, universe, screenplays, characters etc.) and the financial aspects, especially given the exponential growth of the video game industry.

While for years many movie adaptations were quite criticized precisely because of this lucrative aspect, their lack of originality and subtlety (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), their design (remember when Sonic the Hedgehog was redesigned after the release of the trailer to better resemble Sonic's video game design), adaptations now seem to be experiencing a new era. In fact, they continue to increase and many TV series adaptations such as Arcane or The Witcher have been highly praised. We collect many of these movies and TV series adaptations, so feel free to browse our stills database.

And what about video games that have not been adapted yet? What would a video game look like if it were adapted into a movie, or had been a movie? It's a question we often ask ourselves while playing our favorite video games, and one that our AI-powered search engine is able to answer with its own understanding of what video game imagery is.

While we wait for the release of the TV series based on The Last of Us, let us see what our AI gives us: post-apocalyptic city, desolate landscape, third-person view, illuminated shots with lens flare, armed man in a foggy forest... : it really looks like the video game, doesn't it? Try any visual reference and see for yourself, here are some suggestions: Half Life, Tetris, Gran Turismo, GTA, Cyberpunk 2077, Metroid Prime, Steep.

As we explained in our article about Relationships between painting and cinema, our AI is able to recognize and interpret proper names or titles and make connections with the screencaps we collect. Try it with any video game and see: some of the shots look straight out of video games! Two reasons explain these results: first, the deep understanding of our AI and second, the fact that video games are inspired by cinema imagery and cinema by video games imagery. Let us explain.

How does cinema inspire video games?

Cutscenes that interrupt gameplay are a perfect example of how video games were inspired by cinema, like those of Metal Gear Solid which have marked an entire generation. Thanks to technological advances, cutscenes are no longer the only moments in video games that are very "cinematic ". Over the years, video games have become a narrative medium in their own right, and modern games offer an amazing experience that sometimes further blurs the lines between games and cinema.

For example, the development team of The Order: 1886 decided to make the game more filmic by adding imperfections such as lens flare or dirt on the screen, as if it were a real dirty camera, to immerse the player who is used to this kind of imperfections from live action movies or documentaries, in the game.

Naughty Dog games like Uncharted or The Last of Us offer spectacular graphics and settings and, above all, very subtle narratives and characters, guaranteeing an experience that goes beyond the game.

Another interesting example is Red Dead Redemption, which has received critical acclaim for its narrative and graphics. The development team did research through America and analyzed classic Western films to develop the game. So when you type Red Dead Redemption, our AI fetches spectacular screencaps from Western movies that are very similar to the video game, and some of them probably directly inspired the development team.

Through these searches (The Last of Us, Uncharted or Red Dead Redemption), we can also see how much our AI is able to deeply understand and interpret them, from their iconography to their color palette, but also their characteristics as a video game.

How do video games inspire cinema?

When we search a video game in our database, our Artificial Intelligence looks for images with the same atmosphere, color palette, settings, postures, etc. but also for images with a video game aesthetic.

We allude to the obvious iconographic elements such as player character, game over, etc., that are common in science fiction films whose story takes place in a virtual reality or in a video game(such as the movie Scott Pilgrim or the Tekken-inspired episode Striking Vipers in Black Mirror, but mostly to the way the story is filmed and told.

Black Mirror S5 • E1, 2019

Firstly, among results, our AI finds computer-generated images or images with a texture that reminds us of video games. This can be easily explained by the fact that the cinema industry uses more and more FX and tools from the video game industry. For The Mandalorian, for example, the Unreal Engine game engine was used for creating backgrounds in real time to large LED screens.

Secondly, the issue of framings and viewpoints is very interesting and representative of the way our AI interprets video games, such as first-person shooter viewpoint or wide-angle shots with characters in front of a landscape.

 Altered Carbon S1 • E7, 2018

Justice League, 2017

Indeed, AI finds many images with angles similar to those in video games: third-person, rendered from a fixed distance behind the player character, as in Tomb Raider, or first-person, rendered from the viewpoint of the player's character, as in Call of Duty. Many results from our database seem to be taken directly from a video game.

While this type of shots certainly predates video games, it's also becoming more common in movies and shows a new way of conceptualizing the cinematic experience.

One of the best examples of this gamification in recent years is undoubtedly 1917 by Sam Mendes, both in the screenplay (the viewer follows two soldiers on their mission), in the editing and in the simulated long take shot (the viewer moves forward with them step by step) and in the immersive angles used. As a result, many viewers and critics have compared 1917 to Call of Duty.

While cinema provided storytelling codes and developed high-end tools for decades - the 1982 movie Tron, for example, looked more like a video game than a video game itself at the time of its release, with its virtual reality script and sophisticated graphic tools - the trend seems to be reversing more and more.

Today, modern video games are sparking new directions and creative innovations for movies, TV series, ads or music videos. And we can see that through our database and thanks to our search engine: search for the name of any video game, whether adapted (Arcane) or not (The Binding of Isaac), and our AI will find screencaps in the style of the game, both iconographically and aesthetically.

So what would a video game look like if it were adapted into a movie, or had been a movie? Ask our AI and see.

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