While Prince of Persia director Mike Newell may have the magic touch when it comes to creating a decent movie based on a video game, his actual understanding of video games is almost embarrassing. In a recent interview with Computer & Video Games, Newell had a number of disparaging things to say about games and gamers that have made him this week's whipping boy among the video game chattering classes. But in between slamming gamers and games and even his own son's zombie-like devotion to some unnamed action game, Newell said one thing in particular that ticked a lot of people off: that game's can't convey human emotion that a film can.
But let's pull back the curtain a little more and examine his comments; Newell admits that he can't play games, and that, while making Prince of Persia, he had to rely on an assistant to play through the game while he watched. He said that while he watched the game, he felt nothing - just like when he watched his son play some unnamed action game.
Newell also said that just talking about video games "bores his arse off." But to illustrate his point about games, he talks about 24:
When people watch 24, they're watching for the surprise, you know - when is the great big bad surprise going to step out from behind the palm tree. When they watch The Wire, they're watching the human drama of it.
You can't do it without the human drama. And the video game cannot do that. The video game can do all sorts of face-pulling, all sorts of: 'I am a bad man, I have a mean jagged sword,', but it can't do any more than that.
That quote alone is enough to illustrate that Newell doesn't find the medium very enjoyable, but that simply could be that he doesn't understand games in general or because he has never encountered a game with a compelling narrative that pulls the player in. Certainly the game that his son is playing, which he says "he feels nothing" from observing, is part of his perception problems.
But let’s skip the hatefest and instead suggest a few examples of games that make the emotional connection, in case Newell is reading: Half-Life or Half-Life 2, Heavy Rain, Shadow of the Colossus, Bioshock, Mass Effect, etc.,
Newell's work on Prince of Persia was commendable, but imagine how could it have been if he actually cared about the source material..