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Episode 30: The Indoor Kids
Video Games vs Movies
The Indoor KidsThe Indoor Kids

The Indoor Kids #30: Video Games vs Movies (with Devin Faraci)

This week, Kumail and Emily welcome Devin Faraci (kick-ass movie reviewer/Badass-in-Chief at Badass Digest) to pour his passion for movies into video games. We discuss old and new narratives, special effects, storytelling, and how all that works differently in video games vs. movies. Plus butt plugs.

Follow @devincf on Twitter and visit Badass Digest!

Follow @indoorkids, @kumailn, and @thegynomite on Twitter!

And email us at [email protected]!

Special thanks to Carvin for supplying us with the equipment we need to record this podcast! Check out for more information on recording equipment, guitars, amps and more!

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  1. Ivi says:

    I actually did have that moment in Skyrim where I really liked the narrative… Up to that point, I had spend half of my time in Whiterun: I had a house there, I knew all the merchants and no longer needed the minimap to navigate it.. Then I went to do Ulfrik’s quest, part of which was to take over Whiterun. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but when I arrived at the city, Whiterun was BURNING. There were people fighting all over, lots of bodies and half the buildings I knew and loved were smashed. It ultimately came to mean nothing but a few stray comments from the NPCs, but at the time I felt so GUILTY. I had aided Ulfrik without even thinking about all the lives that would be destroyed by the rebellion…

  2. Patrick says:

    Please do not have Devin back on the show. He was frustrating to listen to and keep contradicting himself which made for an iritating debate. Thank you for an otherwise awsome podcast.

  3. ironring1 says:

    I really, really enjoyed this episode. I have to disagree with Daveboy’s comment regarding disc space and narrative. Narrative is not the same as text, if it were, it would be free given how little space text takes. Narrative in an interactive game is about programming in all of the possibilities into the game. If you don’t want a game’s rails to be obvious, that means giving the player as many choices as possible and keeping the gameplay equally smooth regardless of which one you choose. To draw an analogy to a more typical programming problem, consider how much of a program’s coding is dedicated to handling unexpected input. Choices for the gamer are a form of unexpected input.

    I did have one small correction for Devin, though and that is about big name actors in video games, and in particular Skyrim. Christopher Plumber plays the voice of one of the Greybeards, and Max Von Sydow plays the voice of Esbern. It’s just a small point, but those are two big-name, respectable actors, and I was really surprised when I heard them.

  4. Graeme says:

    I like the cut of this Blackula Jones’ character’s jib. Man makes some good points.

  5. Blackula Jonez says:

    Hey Kumail, can you elaborate on your Side Quest comment about video games not being that old as a medium because video games have not been able to tell Skyrim level or “real stories” until right now?

    Does that mean that with each console generation the medium is reborn and the previous progress is irrelevant? And instead of gaming being 30 years old its actually 6 or 7 years old (depending on wherever you believe the 7th console generation starts).

    By that logic how many films don’t count because they didn’t have sound, color, digital sound, modern special effects, modern editing, HD digital video so on and so forth.

    I also disagree with the notion that a game like Skyrim could not have existed earlier, it may have been on more discs, had more text than voice over work and not have looked as good but this games special features are its non linear gameplay due to there being no urgent main narrative and over abundance of side quest? Which in and of itself are not exclusive to Skyrim.

    The only next gen qualities of Skyrim are its graphics and data compression (how all of that game fits on one disc truly mystifies me) other than that it is another rpg to me, albeit one of if not the biggest/longest the genre has ever produced. Other than that I can’t really think of too many attributes or qualities that are exclusive to and can only be found on Skyrim. It is definitely a high quality game and one of the best of 2011 and in my eyes is akin to Gears and Uncharted as one of the best examples of a genre (Gears & Uncharted 3rd person Action/Adventure Shooter, Skyrim American RPG)

    I personally think that gaming is held back due to video games being seen as a commodity to be sold first and narrative/artistic medium 6th or 7th. No major game studio is sets out to create “Art” their main objective is to make a game people will purchase on day 1. We are seeing a rise in the independent developer market due to it being cheaper to make games but that just isn’t the case for the major triple A games right now.

    Hopefully it will change for the better in the future.

  6. Kumail Nanjiani says:

    Thanks for listening everyone! We are definitely going to have Devin back to continue talking about some of the things you guys mention here.

    Also, I wanna reiterate this: I LOVE the Gears of War games. I love love love them. I do think the characterization of some of the characters is pretty shallow, but that’s really me being critical of something I truly love. As video games & spectacle, those games are hard to beat. Maybe we’ve been harping on them too much recently. Gears of War 3 would be in my top 5 games of 201, no question.

    And I just saw the Wolverine thing again. Here’s what I was saying: it should have cut out right after he said “Go Fuck Yourself.” I didn’t like the extra shot of Wolverine ordering another drink. It’s a very small thing, but I would have much preferred if the scene would have ended right after his line of dialogue. Dunno why; just feels funnier to me.

    Thanks all for listening!


  7. warship satin says:

    @brodie – hahaha its a shame that devin faraci ruined your real time play by play of grievances by “whining too much”

  8. Blackula Jonez says:

    I was a little apprehensive about you guys bringing in another critic on for a show but I ended up liking the cut of this Devin characters jib. The comments about gaming needing to be more like novels instead of movies is spot fucking on.

    I found the God of War and Transformers comparison quite apt. But t I am also a fan of cheap spectacle and find no reason to try and make everything I like into some high art endeavor.

    I still don’t get the love and praise of Kratos and derisive/dismissive take on Marcus Fenix. They are goddamn near the same character (hyper masculine locomotives of destruction) but one is seen as cool and the other is somehow a douchebag? I would go deeper into this if it wasn’t as fruitless/pointless as trying to differentiate between Hawkeye and Green Arrow or The Flash and Quicksilver.

    Disclaimer: as an owner of both ps3 and 360 consoles along with owning both trilogies I feel like a man without a country in liking both protagonist.

    I would also implore Kumail and Emily to check out the Gears novels or comics to get a better look at Marcus Fenix as a character. Me and my gf believe the biggest flaw of the Gears of War franchise was that they left most of their character exposition in other media instead of putting it in the games. They were able to put some in Gears 3 but it ended up being too little too late.

    I know how easy it is to just judge Gears, it is a target begging to be taken at face value. But seeing as you have had contest with Gears prizes and even had Carlos Ferro on as a guest maybe this is your way of staying fair and balanced?

    And Kumail totally made up the extra bit after Wolverines f-bomb in First Class. I guess that’s why eye witness testimonies matter for jack shit in courts lol.

  9. Gospel X says:

    Marky John, I think you’re taking the God of War/Transformers comparison too literally. There’s more in common than fighting. They’re both titles constructed from the ground up to be considered blockbusters, quite a bit of money was invested in them because there’s more of a focus on aesthetics than any deeper value, and most importantly they are both meaningless fluff released just to make money rather than for any actual artistic intent. The list can go on, but you get my point.

    As for the rest, it’s like I said – it’s subjective. I already said that games can be art and that we have some titles that we always turn to when discussing games as art (i.e., Bioshock, Braid, etc.). That’s not the point. The concern is about what elements qualify a title as been high art. Devin is comparing games to movies, but he admits that shouldn’t be how it goes. Then again, he also argues that we should have higher standards for games, and I more than agree with that.

  10. LevelledUp says:

    By the way the discussion of Lost was hilarious and one of my favorite things you guys have done so far on these podcasts. It made me wonder what a weekly television criticism podcast with you guys (Kumail and Emily plus guests) would be like – fun I bet.

  11. LevelledUp says:

    If you guys ever need a topic idea I suggest tackling a type of game Emily has said she used to play a lot. The RTStrategy games like Age of Empires, which I used to play a lot around 1999-2000 etc. Why did they fade? Can they be revamped and come back somehow and other related questions. Could be interesting.

  12. Marky John says:

    Gospel, I think “some” video games can be considered fine or high art because creating the visuals require the same technical integrity as any fine art painting in existance. Take Davinci’s “The Last Supper” for example. To some it’s a masterpiece and to some it’s just a bunch of dudes sitting at a table. It could have been a superbowl party for all we know.

    And you’re right, they are doing fine. I know I came off like I was undervaluing the podcast….It’s just a little discomforting when underdeveloped critics fail to be impressive.

    One thing you and I just wont agree on: That Transformers/God of War comparison was just amateur. Even within the context of what he was trying to say those properties were non-comparible. The only thing they had in common was that there’s fighting involved. If our litmus test is gonna be that shaky then every movie I’ve ever seen is exactly the same because they were all shot using a camera.

  13. Marky John says:

    Faraci saying that A “God of War” game is like playing Ten “Transformers” games was completely wreckless to say as a critic. It’s like saying that all of the movies in the “Underworld” franchise are equal to watching one “Spiderman” film.

    When paid to have an “Opinion” on things, it should be a craft you’re exceptional in…Not just something you use as a tool for social acceptance on top of just being mediocre at it.

    This guy does have some interesting insights and I’m indeed a supporter after listening to him, but you guys have to start challenging your guest and stop enabling them to dart off on flimsy tangents by repeatedly saying “Yeah, Yeah Me Too, I Fell The Same Way”.

    And the whole question about whether Videogames can be considered art…C’mon, of course they are. Here it is put simply:

    A painting= A Painter creates a visual using colors that can stimulate the eye and in turn induces a sense of translation and immersion that’s unique per viewer.

    A Video Game=Same result as the painting. The painting can just be a still shot of a scene in a game. A scene just serves up a bit more context surrounding that still but can still leave the viewer with much to the imagination.

    I love the show guys and I listen every week. This is just a little tough love.

    • Gospel X says:

      Marky John, you make some good points, but I think they’re doing fine. They could have challenged Devin, sure, but it wouldn’t have gotten them very far. Devin’s points and opinions were fair. Transformers and God of War aren’t high art, and it’s hard to argue otherwise.

      Further, the “games are art” debate is passe. Ebert argued that games cannot be art. We all disagreed. Games CAN be art. Now the question should be about whether or not the games we’re facing have any real artistic merit. I admit this is subjective, rendering my point at the end of the first paragraph moot. Still, we have a very short list of games we turn to when discussing games as art. Why? Because we consider so very few of them of any value. So while games certainly CAN be art, like any painting or photograph or broken compact disc, what and how to determine value has become the focus.

      And in comparing games to our other longer celebrated art forms, it seems like games have quite a way to go.

  14. LOGAN says:

    It’s great to finally hear other people talk about Martyrs. It is easily my favorite horror film from the last decade and I felt that you guys described it perfectly. I definitely think it transcends the horror genre and becomes so much more, but I still don’t recommend it to most people.

  15. Kevin says:

    Devin and I definitely don’t see eye to eye on games. But he was still a very interesting guest. Keep up the good work Clan-Nanjiani!

  16. Gospel X says:

    Devin Faraci has just become my favorite guest on The Indoor Kids. His criticisms of the gaming medium were spot on, and those are issues that need to be addressed moving forward with not only game design but also the recognition of games as an art and entertainment form. It is understandable why some of the listeners might be put off by his comments; Kumail appropriately mentioned that fans of the medium might be insecure about it. And let’s face it, many don’t realize they’re insecure about it. When you over intellectualize about the medium in its defense, sometimes you’re just grasping for anything that will let you hold your opinion high.

    And as much as I love Shadow of the Colossus, Devin was right. Projecting my own narrative into the story and feeling that maybe I was the bad guy doesn’t mean anything. If I really felt I were doing the wrong thing in the game, I could stop playing – and I’d have no other option because nothing happens when Wander meanders from his objective. If the game were really that open, I’d have more choices.

    I admit fully that I’m firmly in the camp of people who think that narrative is focused on too much in video games, especially since they’re so poorly written. The emphasis should be on the game play. Not the graphics, which I don’t want to be life-like because I’m fully capable of going outside and seeing the world, or the ultimately forgettable story. Games should focus on the one aspect that they have over other entertainment mediums: the part where you get to exercise agency.

  17. brodie says:

    Ok…sorry but I cant listen to him whine anymore. turning off.

  18. brodie says:

    He is very whiny…

  19. Brodie says:

    Very much dissagree. rockstar is never good route bad route. its on a rail storyline where Skyrim is good route bad route.

  20. sean says:

    Dont kill the foxes! follow them, they lead to…..

  21. Brian says:


    While I agree with your assessment of Devin Faraci’s remarks, I think you were off about Dan Harmon’s. What I got from Dan’s use of the word “binary” was that the choices available in games were too black and white, not that he was saying the game was limited by the fact that it’s composed of 1’s and 0’s. I haven’t listened to the Harmon episodes since they were released, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t complaining about data bits. Obviously the game is limited by what it’s programmed to do, but the longer you work at making the decision trees more complex and the more those decisions affect the game, the better the game is at approximating a realistic world (or a narrative).

    They’re essentially making the same argument – games aren’t “real” enough yet. Devin wants it real enough – or smart enough – to tell a good story without so much direct intervention, and Dan wants it real enough so that he can do what he really wants (actually, Devin kind of wants that too, in reference to the Thieves Guild quests).

    I think this is one of the best episodes so far. Really good discussions throughout.

  22. todd says:

    It was fun to hear a dissenting opinion on the podcast, but fun in a weirdly frustrating way. I kinda wish Kumail had channeled his inner Marc Maron on this dude. I have never been a big fan of fantasy as a genre and I only get to play the Skyrim 2-4 hours a week, but I have to say the story is awesome and the voice acting is excellent considering the scale of the game. Devin Faraci is a smart guy but I disagreed with a lot of what he said. Still a good episode!
    Thanks iKids

  23. Matt10 says:

    I’ll say this about Michael Bay’s Transformers movies: they actually manage to make it seem like a world worth losing. Based on the jabbering baboon people populating it you just wish the Decepticons would get their act together and just exterminate humanity. So congrats to Bay for managing to achieve that as a filmmaker.

    As for horror films, they’re fun to watch as long as you know what you’re getting into. The hardcore horror stuff like Martyrs is not a fun watch – you’ll just get depressed. Most of those extreme films are a reaction to the bland horror flicks of the 90’s. It’s also important to know that torture and rape add running time and graphic content to otherwise boring flicks. But that stuff is cheap to produce so you wind up seeing a lot of it and just when you think torture porn is dead there’s about five more of those flicks at the Redbox.

  24. Lydia says:

    I forgot to mention: Fallout 2 was so much funnier than Fallout 3. I loved Fallout 3, but I missed the wackiness. I was glad Fallout New Vegas gave us a little taste of this again with the “Wild Wasteland” trait.

  25. Lydia says:

    This was a great thought-provoking episode!

    It’s no surprise to me that I like Skyrim so much, because I definitely tend towards wanting to project my own narratives onto video games rather than following one that someone has already written. The game I have spent the most hours on in my life is a MUD – a text-based game where the players create almost all the story (think D&D but the computer does all the complicated dice work for you). I loved being able to write my character’s description and go wherever I wanted with her life story. I was similarly inclined with The Sims, where I’d create custom skins and objects and have these complicated narratives in my head for all the Sims I made.

    I’m also a sucker for any kind of resource-accumulating game — so, again, MUDs, The Sims, and Age of Empires III (I played through the campaigns in those games once just to see what they were like and because I liked the unique challenges they’d issue you, but I was much more addicted to the skirmish).

    Other than that, if I’m going to play a narrative game, it has to have a sense of humor. So I loved the LucasArts point-and-click adventures, EarthBound, and Super Mario RPG – and to the lesser extent, most of the JRPGs, which all had their fair share of bizarre little jokes. I’m the same way with literature, movies, and most music…I just don’t trust humorless stuff!

  26. Ben Clarkson says:

    Also its always funny when people talk about Lost, just in terms of how different people see it.

    I never thought the island mysteries were the main part, I always thought the Jake/Kate/Sawyer type personal drama was the point.

  27. Daniel says:

    Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine) wrote Enslaved: Odyssey to the West:

    Andy Serkis also played the main role of Monkey.

  28. Ben Clarkson says:

    Very interesting. I like having some conflicting opinions.

  29. Atrox says:

    This was a really great listen. There were a lot of points where Devin’s movie expertise seemed to color his opinions about gaming too much, but he raised a lot of good points about narrative and how it’s sometimes neglected in modern gaming.

  30. bc! says:

    Great episode. There were some opposing views and the contrast was fun to listen to.

    Don’t find myself in Devin’s camp regarding narrative / immersion, but nonetheless is was fun to hear and consider his opinions.

    You guys are killing it lately!

  31. RaphyL says:

    I liked the story in both Modern Warfare one and two. I didn’t dislike the story in MW3, it just seemed like they kept trying to ramp up the intensity and it didn’t always work. However i do know some people, myself included, who held onto the plot in an attempt to enjoy the game more. It worked to varying degrees. I wish shooters tried to incorporate the story as a more important part, but with every many studios trying to grind out the “MW3 killer,” i just don’t see it happening.

  32. Chad H says:

    There are a lot of things in Skyrim that make no sense sometimes but there does need to be a quest to get rid of the thieves guild like there is one to destroy the Dark Brotherhood. A pure warrior type or mage type without stealth probably wouldn’t want to help them out.

    There also should be a way to settle the end of the Blades without killing a certain dragon. This might happen in DLCs though which is nice.

  33. Daveboy says:

    I’m listening to this episode and it’s driving me crazy. Devin Faraci is talking about modern gaming and how they focus on realism and such at the expense of an interesting story, and that this is taking “space” on the disc that could be devoted to narrative.

    This is, bluntly, wrong. Space on the disc and narrative are VERY weakly linked. A much better comparison would be – games cost money to make, developing narrative and actually creating systems that respond to player choice takes a lot of effort and time and forces the developer to create a lot of content that the player might not see, and big budget games instead spend that time on refining their graphics and creating levels that funnel the player through a series of big-budget “setpieces” that the player is guaranteed to see.

    When Dan Harmon was on the show he made a similar error, talking about how games were limited in narrative because they deal in binary. As a programmer, I can tell you this is a complete non sequitur and doesn’t make any sense. This is like saying that a book is intrinsically limited because each printed page consists of two colors: black and white.

    I really enjoy your guests and Devin is great – a really interesting guy. So was Dan Harmon. But when these guys try to explain technical limitations on games they almost always get it wrong. And it drives me nuts. I know it shouldn’t. I know I’m being a pedantic nerd. I can’t help myself.

    But anyway, this is another great show. Keep up the great work. Indoor Kids just keeps getting better.

  34. Reed says:

    Ahhhhhh just play the Thieves Guild quests! I don’t wanna spoil it, but the people aren’t who you think they are! Remember the Dark Brotherhood made you MURDER a beggar and a poor untalented bard; nothing the Thieves Guild makes you do will be as bad. Speaking of narrative, that substory is second only to the Dark Brotherhood story.

    Plus, you get all the most awesome armor in the game from the Thieves Guild…

  35. Andrew says:

    My girlfriend just made me start watching Twin Peaks over the weekend!! We had tickets to the Miss Twin Peaks burlesque show.