Meta can mean a lot of things when it comes to video games. It could mean the best weapons, or the current popular strategy. It may mean “metagaming,” such as using information that your characters don’t have access to to discuss and inform their decisions. That could mean the artist formerly known as Facebook and his foray into virtual reality. Speaking of virtual reality, it could also be the Metaverse, although no one can agree on what it is, how it works, or why it’s better than Second Life or VRChat. In movies, meta generally only means one thing, and they’re better at that than video games.
To be dead in a movie is to be self-referential. This may be by breaking the fourth wall, thus recognizing itself as a movie, but the film industry is much more creative than that. The 1996 original Scream was one of the first “modern meta” films, making heavy references to other horror films and their conventions, subverting and surrendering to keep audiences guessing. This, in turn, has informed the likes of Scary Movie and Zombieland, the latter among others to talk about the rules of ‘survival’.
The Last Action Hero, which was three years older than Scream with its 1993 premiere, was arguably the first movie to do modern meta action, but LAH is like a video game in its own right, taking a single audience member into a movie. , and going into the meta by exploring shooting operations and stunt coordination. Scream is more comprehensive, and therefore more impactful in laying the foundation.
Flash forward yet, just being dead is not enough. After two decades of parodies and Joss Whedon’s mood-lightening jokes, meta is now the default. If a movie is to be dead these days, it has to be destructively dead. Scream (the new one, also called Scream, for reasons I’ll get into) and The Matrix Resurrections are the best examples of how movies leave video games behind.
I don’t bring video games just because as TheGamer, we are contractually obligated to discuss video games. We write about movies and TV on a lot of advantages. But video games are our most interactive art form and, oddly enough, they are left behind like that. In some ways, video games cannot escape mentioning the fact that they are video games. Die in a difficult moment? Never mind, try again! And don’t forget to press B to dodge and LT to shoot!
But modern video games are keen to avoid this reality. In Uncharted 2, treasure will shine to let you know when you’re close, huge button prompts fill the screen, hints are given by suggesting a ‘push up on the D-pad’, and what feels like every gun battle begins with specific combat tips. The Last of Us Part 2, made by the same studio 11 years later, intentionally hides the typical ‘thing that matters’ glow, is stingy with hints, button prompts, tutorials, and even sees you attacking you while you’re in a workbench-area The game was usually treated as a safe space.
I have no problem with TLOU2 sabotaging conventions in this way, but when every game does everything they can to make you forget you’re playing a video game, it makes them look awkward with their own medium. I’ve written about an inferiority complex in games before, how they constantly try to be the same senseless movie, how they lack the storytelling nuances that Hollywood can easily afford, and how our competition is competing with the Oscars (while heavily dependent on) stars Cinema and advertisements for TGA for work) is a symptom of our desperation to be approved. While games were busy trying to become movies, movies went and became video games.
The following paragraphs refer extensively to events in Scream (2022) and The Matrix Resurrections but do not spoil any major plot points.
Take the latest Matrix flick, for example. It’s a remake of the video game remake style – Final Fantasy 7 Remake. The film plays like the first Matrix, but with major identifying differences. There’s no fourth wall breaker in Deadpool, and there’s no Jimming for the camera, but large portions of the movie are aimed specifically at us. We as the audience and we are, yes we are a lot here, as players. Games borrowed more from The Matrix, and we toned down to cut back on time and fight scenes. The movie upsets us, he resents the Warner Brothers, he hates what The Matrix and the Red Pill stands for, and it’s all right.
The Matrix is well aware that not only is it a movie, it’s the fourth film in a trilogy that ended nearly two decades ago, its second movie has been heavily criticized and deeply misunderstood, and all of its themes have been distorted 180 degrees or completely ignored because the bullets move slowly. He knows what it is and never lets you forget about it.
Then there’s Scream – the original definition movie. Just as Randy explains the rules of horror in the original, the new Randy (his niece, for more connection) explains the rules of replay; This is a complement slash to reboot.
Scream grew larger as it went on, referring to the fantasy Stab films in the universe that were made as a reaction to the film’s events. Stab 8, a reboot just called Stab, is mentioned in Scream, where characters complain about ownership agreements and a lack of old characters — which Scream avoids by bringing back Dewey, Gale, and Sidney.
Scream is ready to forget that it’s a movie sometimes. It has some of the coolest kills, excellent tension builds, and one of the best killer reveal in the entire series. My doubts seemed perfect until they died in a speck of blood. But he’s never afraid to pull you back, and remind you of people this is Watching the universe stab, people in for us Watch the universe scream. Even more so than Scream 3, which is set on a large portion of the movies, Scream (2022) constantly reminds you that this is a movie in a broader series, and that franchises have rules — and those rules can be broken.
Movies are not afraid to be movies. Most of them enjoy it, even if they don’t like it as much as Scream and The Matrix. However, video games are afraid to be games – especially at the triple A level. This is because they want you to think of them as movies where you are the star. Every death is just a deleted scene. This is your story, no one else.
Games should be games. There are hundreds of conventions for different types of games and thousands of common facts. You can click the stick forward to the enemy. LT is the target and RT is the fire. He is jumping. The start button (otherwise known as the start whatever your console) means to pause. There are things we all know, things a brave enough game could use to tell a story bigger than itself, but instead a lot of them play it all right. Video games have dabbled in meta before – Psycho Mantis reads your memory card, Batman: Arkham Asylum has “broken” himself – and they have cemented their place in the pop culture ethos.
These are not new examples, however anyone who has tried them can remember them right away. We love games that make us think differently, even if we’re willing to buy the same on the shoulder of third-person action games with a sentimental core under their blunt exterior time and time again. As video games have gotten better at being movies, movies are getting better at playing with their audience in ways that video games should be out of sight for them by now. At least if the games continue to copy the movies, they may understand the meta within a decade or so.
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