PlayStation Games Go to the Movies

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Are blockbuster-sized digital movie theaters the next frontier for video games? Imagine standing in front of a colossal viewport onto a sweltering tropical forest, a colorific fantasy world magnified and moving. Grass blades thrust above your head and stones loom like boulders. Men with high-caliber heaters shoot and dive-roll between colossal slabs of cover like nimble giants. Even the saplings tower like oaks.

All very much the case, had you been among the privileged attending Sony's PlayStation 3-exclusive Uncharted 2: Among Thieves movie theater premiere in Thousand Oaks, California, yesterday. In what the New York Time describes as a bid "to help boost revenues," Sony rolled the game out to a select few theaters, allowing several hundred gamers the rare opportunity to see one of 2009's tastiest games writ larger than art-imitating-life-imitating-Gulliver's-Travels.

The New York Times's Eric Taub dropped by and wrote this in reflection:

The huge image of the game on the theater screen created an immersive experience; with its intricate graphics, the action often looked more like a movie than a video game. But as good as the 4K experience is with feature films, the game was surprisingly dim. Compared to the eye-popping bright, saturated images on the LCD screens just a few feet away, the screen image looked dull and washed out. Here’s a case where size trumped quality.

I'm with Taub. It's why I have a high-def 20-inch LCD TV instead of a 50- or 60-inch Plasma. Quality over size. Kinetic thrills aside, games look better on smaller screens, as long as you've worked out where you want to sit and at what angle. I prefer closer with a 20- or 30-inch screen that tops out at 720p. And I prefer 720p, since plenty of games (Demon's Souls comes to mind, as well as Valkyria Chronicles) won't do 1080i/p. I'd rather view something at its native resolution instead of obsessing over quality issues introduced by an upscaler.

Consider medium appropriateness. I'm not sure games even belong on theater screens, any more than mainstream films belong in IMAXs. I saw the new Star Trek movie at an IMAX in London last May, and I'll never repeat the experience: A blurred wash of light and sound, shots edited and tracking too quick for my eyes and neck to follow. That film was made for standard sized projection screens, not for close-up viewing at 72ft by 53ft, dome-style. Likewise, games are made for smaller screens, where your eye can take in everything quickly and react in kind. Part of the reason designers throw dozens of bad guys at you derives from your pseudo-omniscient vantage. Take that away, and you're not physically equipped to keep up.

It's one thing to play and another to watch, right? Sony lined gamers up bottom row to play on individual, standard-sized LCDs while a director alternated projection feeds to the big screen.

Now imagine your favorite football or basketball or hockey games splashed across a sprawling canvas, where multiple players can participate without the need to carve up the screen or alternate vantages.

I can almost get behind that.

Follow me on Twitter @game_on

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