Do games work on the big screen?

By Patrick von Sychowski | September 21, 2007 2:19 pm PDT

Less than two dozen posts and we are fearlessly tackle the Big Questions About The Future OF Cinema in this blog, such as do games have a future in the multiplex. As games get more sophisticated in terms of graphics, plot and budget, attempts are being made to transplant them to the cinema environment.

In Australia researchers at the University of New South Wales‘ department iCinema Centre for Interactive Cinema Research (yes, it really exists) have developed technology that the claim creates ‘an immersive experience’ whereby the audiences explore a film using a joystick. This from an article in Sydney Morning Herald:

One of iCinema’s projects, Place-Hampi, plunges viewers into a 360-degree re-creation of the temple ruins in Hampi, southern India. The filmed ruins are populated with animated Hindu gods and research is under way to allow viewers to interact with the virtual characters. “What we’re doing I don’t think will replace existing formats. It is quite distinct and different from going to the movies,” Professor Shaw says.

“The future of the cinema will be a whole family of different types of interactive experiences. There will be specific sites where you’ll go to have very large-scale and very sophisticated experiences like going to a museum, or a rock concert. But we also see enormous development in terms of interactive cinema in the home.”

iDomeThe iCinema Centre has built a ‘lounge room friendly’ iDome (Have they checked with Steve Jobs about the use of all these iTerms? – Ed.), which is apparently a a fibreglass screen just three metres in diameter. This sounds like little more than the CAVE type of 3D simulation already widely in use.

A more traditional type of cinema testing gaming is UK’s Odeon, which has equipped its Huddersfield multiplex with on-screen gaming in partnership with Big Screen Games. Here is how Odeon’s website describes it:

In line with the major entertainment milestones such as the moving picture, colour, surround sound and digital cinema, a new innovation in cinema history has been born. Big Deal Games, in partnership with ODEON, are introducing in-cinema gaming on the big screen!

Odeon Big Screen GamesBig Screen Games is the newest entertainment phenomenon and is exclusive to ODEON – an interactive game-show with the audience as contestants! Using interactive game consoles, players compete against each other right from their seats.

You can play fun and familiar games such as bingo, trivia and memory match and win cash and prizes! Hosted by popular comedian, Vic Reeves, Big Screen Games will revolutionise the cinema experience. Hundreds of people can play against each other, individually or in teams, right there on the cinema screen – an experience unrivalled in the world of entertainment!

Bold claim, but I’m sure Odeon will wait and see how it goes before it follows up on the plans to roll out the concept to other Odeon cinemas. For now you can test it for yourself at Huddersfield Mon-Wed after 8:15 pm. I tested the touch screen concept a couple of years ago and I can’t say that it attracts me to the cinema the way the latest ‘Bourne’ film would, but then maybe I’m not the target demographic.

Patrick von Sychowski
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