Dan Amos from Tinderbox speaks about the blurring of two worlds and how the gaming industry is turning to Hollywood to bridge its gap with the entertainment industry.
Last month, “Game of Thrones” fans might have been surprised to see Ed Sheeran dressed as a soldier in the opening episode of the latest series. Although the unexpected sighting of the singer serenading the main character Arya Stark in the fantasy drama seemed to thrill most viewers, to some the appearance was out-of-place. With many questioning what purpose the cameo served, it opens up a wider conversation regarding the crossovers that are becoming more and more popular across the entertainment industry – specifically in the gaming world.
Every entertainment medium has its well-known stars. In film, people like Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio own the screens, whilst in gaming, voice actors such as Troy Baker and Jennifer Hale, best known for their incredible voice work in games like The Last of Us and Mass Effect, are distinguished in the industry. But with cameo appearances and guest-starring roles becoming an increasingly popular plot addition, the line that separates these celebrities is beginning to blur. Stars of the screen are beginning to appear in games frequently, with talented actors like Kevin Spacey and Norman Reedus lending both their vocal skills and likeness to games such as the globally renowned Call of Duty and the highly anticipated Death Stranding, begging the question: do they really belong there?
Hollywood Moves to Gaming
With the gaming industry growing faster than ever before, the need to provide complex and interesting plots to entertain hungry fans has opened the door for other celebrities to venture into the digital world. However, as larger budget games like Call of Duty and Halo look to draw in audiences similar to a blockbuster movie, they haven’t just been tied to Hollywood actors. British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton made his debut appearance last year in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, as did UFC’s Connor McGregor. Whilst there is an argument as to whether or not a celebrity belongs in the digital world, by placing a familiar face such as Lewis Hamilton or Ed Sheeran into an environment totally separate to the world in which they dominate, you create links to new audiences and other pop culture spheres. There is a reason for this foray by Hollywood into games. Aside from creating excellent PR for the release of an upcoming game, placing well-known celebrities in the script is equally as important to expand and broaden audiences.
The Portrayal of Characters
Someone that is set to do just that is the man best known as The Doctor. Bringing with him years of on-screen talent, David Tenant has secured a top role in the zombie version of the much-anticipated Call of Duty: WW2 that is set for release later this year. Tenant’s appointment is indeed a clever one – what better way to draw in new audiences than to choose an actor that has one of the largest fan followings from a previous role? In his new role as The Nazi Hunter, Tenant will feel at ease voicing a character much similar to his years as the time lord, and this will in turn allow fans to be much more receptive to the crossover from film and television. Instead of feeling forced and out-of-place, by casting such a recognisable actor to portray a character that is very similar to his previous roles, Activision have done well to create a crossover that has all the signs of being successful.
As well as adding credibility however, fans of David Tenant, or more specifically, The Doctor, are likely to follow him across to the new platform of gaming – a sector that they may not have ventured into before – thus extending the fan base of both the core game and the consumer products programme that accompanies it. A larger audience means more possibility to grow the product assortment associated with the game. By creating successful crossovers between the two industries, Activision is working towards a world in which there is little difference between a gaming franchise and a film franchise.
Interestingly, Call of Duty is well on its way to delivering its own series of blockbuster films, making the crossovers even more important to blur the lines for fans to be able to enjoy the franchise without viewing it as two different forms of entertainment. This will in turn grow the reach of the gaming franchises’ consumer products programmes, allowing the films to support the games and vice versa. It is certainly a challenging task – to merge two industries that have historically been seen as very different experiences will require considerable effort. But the small steps publishers such as Activision are taking by creating clever crossovers could pay off. It might not be too long until it is possible to go to the cinema and watch a compelling storyline unravel for a gaming franchise and then go home and play the game itself. Will we soon see a time whereby all edges of the entertainment industry are blurred? It is entirely possible.
Dan Amos is Head of New Media of Tinderbox, the dedicated digital division of leading global brand extension agency, Beanstalk.
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