Full-motion video has found the perfect home: horror games
It would be easy to think that full-motion video is obsolete.
Full-motion video, often shortened to FMV, is a previously rendered or recorded scene that is spliced into a game, rather than rendered by the game’s engine in real-time. Using full-motion video once allowed developers to insert visuals into a game far beyond the scope of their graphics engine. For example, when Final Fantasy 7 needed to depict the massive scale of Midgar, it didn’t use 1997’s crude in-game graphics — it used pre-rendered FMV.
Of course, this explanation paints over huge swathes of the format’s history. Arcade games like Dragon’s Lair built semi-responsive worlds out of hand-animated full-motion video, and an undercurrent of FMV titles like Erica or Sam Barlow’s Telling Lies proved that pre-recorded video content can still be gamified in a compelling way.
But when today’s games can approach levels of graphical quality previously exclusive to pre-rendered scenes played like a movie between interactive segments, is there any storytelling advantage to the dramatic shifts in aesthetic FMVs were once known for?
2019’s Devotion gave us an irresistible answer: yes.
And especially in horror games.
Changing the mood by changing the medium
Devotion’s story largely centers around a young girl, Mei Shin. At the encouragement of her family, Mei Shin enters a televised singing competition, competing against other children for a shot at fame. We return to the competition over and over throughout the game; virtually all of the story’s tragic events can be ...
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