Spin: Land of the Loops [1999]

Date: May 1999

Author: David Kushner

Source: Spin, p. 73

LAND OF THE LOOPS Further proof it’s getting harder to tell the difference between videogames and so-called interactive movies: Cinematics, the lavish, often exorbitant video shorts that kick off a game or new level, have become mini-films in their own right. Offering context (the backstory of Zelda) or just pure flair (the grisly death montage that introduces Resident Evil 2), these two-to-three-minute clips are nonetheless dismissed most gamers, which may explain why videogame developers have begun a cred campaing for their beloved shorts.

California-based developer Oddworld Inhabitants submitted a 15-minute loop of cinematics from its hit shoot-’em-up, Abe’s Exoddus, for the Best Short Film category of this year’s Academy Awards. And the cinematic intro for Final Fantasy VIII was so well-hyped that crowds at the Tokyo Game Show last fall waited more than an hour just to catch a glimpse of the anime game’s trailer.

One big graw is the boffo effects seen in most cinematics: The clips in Abe’s Exoddus, for instance, cost $2 million, almost half of the game’s total budget. Though Abe’s failed to get an Oscar nod, Oddworld plans to enter another title next year, even if gamers remain unmoved. “If the game industry is ever going to have the reputation it deserves,” says Oddworld CEO Sherry McKenna, “we have to start somewhere.”