A Sequel by Another Name [Gamer by Design]

I was out playing Super Contra on an arcade machine last week, and a non-gamer friend commented on how cool is it was that this game was side-scrolling, unlike that “other Contra” game he’d played on the Playstation, which just “didn’t feel like a Contra game.” After some investigation, I realized that he was talking about Neo Contra. I’ve written a few columns about the difference between video games and movies, and this conversation brought me back to that line of thinking…”What is a sequel in a movie, and what is it in a game? How do they differ?” In my mind, a movie sequel is theme and subject driven. For example, in the second Back to the Future, Marty goes to a totally different time zone, with some new tricks (flying cars and hover boards).┬áIn the fourth Star Wars, the much maligned Episode 1, we visit characters from the previous trilogy in a different time, but the through-line is the common fiction and character lineage. Those are both good ideas for a sequel (well yeah, maybe if the Star Wars ones had been executed well). They delve further into the subject matter of those worlds. For a video game, I think part of the issue is that video games always tend to follow movie models. And the issue with that, is that games have special needs that are unique to games, and nonexistent in movies. In the years before games, movies, TV, and radio were the main media of technological form. So it made sense in the early years of games to take a little of what movies do, a little of what software does, mix them in a bowl, and out comes a video game. However, I think time has shown that...