In my not-too-distant past, I put more than my fair share of time in video game retail. Four and a half of those years were spent working at, and eventually weekend-managing a small, independently owned store called Microplay in Whitehall, and then Allentown Pennsylvania (Microplay is technically a franchise, that was at one time pretty prominent in Canada; however, the United States stores were privately owned and relatively free of corporate puppeteers). During my time working there, unlike my time working at Gamestop, I was relatively free to set up any new games I wanted to demo on the store’s two TV sets. The owner was relatively clueless in regards to games, and relied heavily on his employees for actual knowledge of the product. Since I did not have to show off what head office told me to, and I did not really limit myself to showing off nonviolent E rated titles, I had a lot of freedom to attempt to drum up attention for some great, lesser-known games.
During this time, I quickly learned the power that a strong opening sequence has to sway a consumer over to a game that he or she may not have ever taken the time to look at before. Although opening sequences that showed gameplay were always a part of the equation during the cartridge generation, and provided many fantastic examples, it was when the industry made the transfer to disc based media, which allowed for the advent of the FMV sequence, that the demo video truly began to develop into an art of its own. Developers, and publishers (who sometimes changed things up for the a title’s Western release) took the opportunity to spice things up by combining gameplay footage, with clips from the games FMVs. Many games also feature a unique cinema exclusive to the opening. These videos often feature the best the game has to offer in terms of music, or even it’s own fresh theme song.
The film fan in me has a great respect for a well-executed opening cinema. Much like a game’s trailer, these sequences provide an opportunity for slick artistry and clever editing to really prove their worth, and showcase the best a title has to offer in a small window of time. In an age where game retail outlets are largely dependent on fake “shows” produced and distributed by head office that contain trailers, interviews, and pretty people with large plastic smiles for demos, it becomes ever more important to remember these fantastic mini-movies. This art form is by no means dead, but it has one foot in the grave. I hope that I can bring a smile to your face and stir some great nostalgic conversation, as I take a fond look at Exemplary Openings.
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