In the meantime, I'm just a guy who writes about videogame theory and how the medium can achieve better cinematic emulation (while keeping its own indentity). Though, if that's too boring, you can always find something delightfully fluffy in the following:
“Acting” in any given videogame is a horrible experience.
Everybody knows their lines, found their marks and expect you to do the same. Only you didn’t bother showing up for the rehearsals and while you’ll probably suffer from perfect verbal diarrhoea, the scenes are a total mystery. You’re the one screwing up the immersion, not them, improvising like an epileptic having panic attack.
We’ve all ignored the dread at some point; by climbing up file cabinets, throwing stationary, jumping on the spot and standing in the way of someone, forcing them to moonwalk you out of the way, as they obliviously deliver a serious life or death speech, al a Half Life 2.
You don’t see that kind of nonsense in movies or television.
“You’ve heard the worst, gentlemen. The Harvester Forces are abou---SGT. BRICK LAMBSHANK! What the hell are you doing?!”
In videogames, you’re an important protagonist, with the world revolving around your actions. Though, what if you’re given a character that doesn’t necessarily have an important role to play and allowed to act “uncharacteristically” because a previous cutscene has given you the green light?
The Rookie from Ghostbusters: The Video Game is a brilliant example of being the supporting character and one that allows the player access in an established world. One where there focus and pressure of “acting” has been shifted to everyone else involved.
Licensed videogames tend to put you in the shoes of your favourite movie/TV characters, but ultimately, they’re videogame protagonists second. By playing the role of the voyeur, one that gets to takes part in any given situation, you don’t have to break immersion, unless it’s on purpose.
Ghostbusters is easily the best use of a movie license since Blade Runner and both share similar traits in their enjoyment. Essentially, they’re successful by creating a new malleable character and neatly placing them within a cinematic emulation.
Whereas, Blade Runner’s Ray McCoy is a fully formed character with his own narrative in tandem with the movie, The Rookie is a bare bones protagonist that gives the player enough freedom to inject their own play style, while having enough personality to exist alongside his cinematic peers.
This is where Ghostbusters really shines beyond its mere fan service roots. Throughout the narrative, there is a marriage of cutscenes and real time events. In the FMV, The Rookie is portrayed as the silent clown; one we can relate to because, bless him, it’s his first day.
Just like The Futureheads once sang about, they’re full of awkward agreements and silences, as you gauge staff members’ awful backfiring attempts at integrating you into the workplace without fuss. In Ghostbusters, it’s exactly the same scenario.
Albeit, involving ghost fishermen, hobo spirits, golems and a giant marshmallow man.
It feeds off your attempts to learn the ropes and the hero worship of characters like Dr. Peter Venkman, a man who treats you like crap at every occasion. As a fan, you look up to these people and love them for their flaws, yet, acting as them wouldn’t do the characters justice. Essentially, they would be avatars that quip without consent, which is exactly what happens in the multiplayer campaign.
As a fan, you’re not meant to be the focus, just the supporting actor.
In the cutscenes, The Rookie ambles around in the background, bemused and being treated like a dogsbody. So, when the time comes to interacting with clients at the Sedgewick Hotel, you’re allowed to wander around, while the others talk business.
It’s subtle in the way it conveys the direction within the opening minutes, before handing over control. To their overlooked credit, Terminal Reality takes that step even further. In a scripted set-piece, where the characters stand around, they always leave a mark for you, be it a gap in the line-up or a team huddle. The developers are giving you the choice to partake in the immersion or bumble around without breaking it.
The Rookie is not the first protagonist in a supporting role, but he’s definitely one of the more successful because of Terminal Reality’s understanding of what it is to “act” in a videogame.
Surely, is it not better to play as a supporting character than one of the main cast?
Ghostbusters proved that can be case. Even the terrible Lost: Via Domus managed to keep some semblance of interest by letting you play a Machiavellian photojournalist on the fringes of each TV season. It was certainly less stressful than performing perfectly as Captain Kirk in Star Trek: 25th Anniversary.
Of course, most licensed videogames do let you play with new inserted characters, but rarely do they give you some kind of subtle motivation, as with the use of direction for The Rookie. For that, we should be thankful that some developers understand their audiences when picking up licenses.
You can cry bias, and yes, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is definitely a personal favourite. It’s licensed videogame made with great care; especially, when it comes to the FX, the visuals, the expansion of ideas, the set-pieces and most important of all, the one-liners. It wasn’t original, but it was a spot-on recreation for people obsessed with the franchise since childhood (ahem); one you could successfully inhabit, with such ease, in the role of The Rookie.