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The tough female protagonist is played by Ellen Page; Willem Dafoe plays an enigmatic scientist in the upcoming Beyond: Two Souls, a PlayStation video game with the DNA of a movie. It is the first game to be invited to a film festival: Tribeca, New York, 2013. Andrew L. Urban reports on a Sydney forum where the future was present.

Using motion capture and voice over capture, Beyond: Two Souls is likely to be a dramatic gamechanger in the video game world, fusing its core elements with the dramatic world of movies. It’s a video game for the thinking man and woman, you could say, in which choices have to be made – as in real life.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (and its sequels & English versions) showed the film industry that a physically and mentally tough female protagonist was every bit as exciting (both for audiences and investors) as a tough guy.

"an immersive choose-your-own-adventure experience"

In Beyond: Two Souls, Page plays the boot-camp hardened Jodie Holmes, but also Aiden, a paranormal entity that's been tethered to Jodie since she was young. More than a game, Beyond: Two Souls promises an immersive choose-your-own-adventure experience in which the options take you on an exponential number of emotional journeys.

But that’s not all the story for the new movie-related game business. Behind the scenes footage (above) articulates the importance of character development and narrative within the video game development process. Just as it is movie making.

These developments are coming from Europe, via Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, with uberwhizkid David Cage writing & directing this game/movie. David Cage is in reality David De Gruttola, a French musician, writer and video game designer of remarkable talents who heads up development at Quantic Dream. At the 2011 BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Awards, in which Quantic Dream won three awards for the film noir-inspired murder-mystery, Heavy Rain, Cage stated that "games always explore the same things. They're about being powerful, being the good guys against the bad guys – that's a very tiny part of what can be done. There are so many other stories to tell, so many other emotions to trigger…” 

At the Sydney forum (held in the casual comfort of Gold Class and superbly moderated by Rob Carlton) Cage was present, and articulated the essence of this new world of video games: drama. “We put you in the shoes of the protagonist … “ And the protagonist is played by a movie star. “At the end,” says Cage, “we hope you’ll be sad that you won’t see her again.”

"the themes are close to real life"

It’s not a shoot em up and the themes are close to real life, from death and the afterlife, to choice we have to make in relationships. It’s not the stuff usually found in videogames.

Cage and his team of 200 took three years to write and produce the game, but it wasn’t a matter of sheer technology, although that plays a big role. “As with Heavy Rain,” he says, “I realised you can create a game from personal experience.” It was the death of a friend’s child that triggered this one.

As for casting, Cage says he was tantalised by images of Ellen Page and became more and more certain she was the right actress for the role, even though he didn’t think he could get her to play it. Unlike a movie role, Page wasn’t sent a script (the ‘script’ with its myriad options for the player to work with, is 2,000 pages). It was matter of hearing the concept from cage, just as it was with Willem Dafoe.

And as Cage points out, he and his company are not the only people working I this area: “There are a lot of people doing great things, especially some of the smaller ones … very creative.”

After the forum, in a conversation about his process, Cage also revealed that the company has developed an app that enables players to use the screen to play – instead of a gaming control, which some people, especially women, seem to resist. Now, that, too is a game changer.

The Verge reports this week: “Lucasfilm knows a thing or two about making movies, and executives at the company are convinced that video game engines will play a huge role in film production within the next decade. Chief technology strategy officer Kim Libreri laid out the company's vision at BAFTA in London this week. Libreri says that computer graphics will eventually evolve to a point that allows video game assets to be inserted in scenes in realtime — drastically lessening the burden of post-production for filmmakers.”

Published September 26, 2013

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David Cage

Beyond: Two Souls (PS3)
Available from October 8, 2013

Ellen Page

Page's avatar in Beyond: Two Souls

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