There’s a game I hold very dear to my heart and one that helped lead me onwards to the journey of film and TV production. While I lacked the resources to achieve the same type of productions, it was still something that drove my aspirations and led me where I wanted to go. It helped teach me and did so while entertaining me. It was Lionhead Studios’ The Movies.
Originally released in 2005, The Movies was perhaps one of the best business simulation titles around thanks to its hybrid gameplay. Not only was it the player’s job to manage a growing Hollywood production company similarly to titles such as Theme Park, but you also had to create actual movies in-game. It led to being a title that got so many hours out of me while teaching me more about different sectors in film production and how to tell a story through visuals.
You’d start your production company during the young years of cinema with silent black and white films being the starting point. The more you progressed the more advanced the technologies became, unlocking new ways to produce films with new sets, cameras and equipment becoming available. Even the props and NPC’s attire outside of the production company grounds would change in accordance. It felt so in-depth, and the whole process of either having a script written up by the game or doing your own was absolutely brilliant.
You’d be able to have Stars roam the production grounds, trying to keep them happy like arrogant Sims while also bossing them around on set like Steve Coogan in Tropic Thunder. Thankfully none of the actors stormed off-set in a heated rant like Christian Bale.
Once a script was chosen you’d pick your cast and crew and get the film into shooting where you’d be able to change the ways actors…acted. There was an advanced mode that let you change props on the set, how many characters, extras, lighting, and even how the shot is framed with preset shots. These consisted of various shots such as static shots, close-ups, and more.
There was also an online area where you could export your movie to the online database and other players could watch and leave reviews and star ratings. At the time it was thriving with uploads. There were even people who had an actual team of voice actors and spent hours working on each shot. It was both inspirational and crazy.
Ignoring the money management side of things —which was fun to struggle through— I spent a lot of time perfecting the ways in which I could tell a story. While I understood shots and their meanings, it was The Movies that helped me see edits in action and how they flowed. It worked by showing me in ways I couldn’t recreate with my tiny MiniDV camcorder. The one thing I never did get to try was the expansion that came out in 2006 called The Movies: Stunts & Effects. This was the only expansion for the game and added some significant action scenes and a freely movable camera.
Now at this point, I already had a deep love for movie productions from watching behind the scenes VHS’s and DVD bonus content. I had already fiddled around with making small stop-motion movies and trying out ways to make my camera move steadily without an expensive dolly.
That being said, due to never having the chance to own this expansion, I instead ended up becoming so invested in visual effects that I ended up learning VFX programs. This led to some —now lost— home movies and kick-started my jump into media production. I slowly started to focus my time on creating real-world home productions, perfecting composition skills, particle simulators, lightsaber creation, and more. I often found myself jumping back onto the game to freshen up current knowledge!
Years went by and I stepped away from The Movies in 2007 when I started college to study media, but when I found time to sit down and boot it up again in 2008, the online portion of the game had closed down. Turns out the game had lost a significant amount of users to keep the online feasible. I’m unsure why there was a drop, I guess the game grew limited for users as it did for myself, or maybe it was the growth of YouTube that led to people uploading their movies there instead. It was a shame to see the game had become unsupported as there were certainly a lot of potentials for it to grow as the real world years grew.
I’d certainly love to see The Movies brought back to life or have another title similar to it release, as an example, what Two Point Studios did with Two Point Hospital. The closest thing I’ve seen to date for a movie simulation title is Cine Tracer which is purely a cinematography simulation rather than a blend of business simulation. However, it’d be a wonderful experience to create movies on the graphical scale of Cine Tracer and have movies export to YouTube channels rather than a dedicated online hub.
Interestingly I’ve looked around to find The Movies and new copies of the game still pop up at around about £50, which to me seems mental considering it’s thirteen years old. There’s also a surprising lack of screenshots out there, so I’ve had to source the above screenshots from Moby Games. There doesn’t seem to be anything in the works for a title even remotely similar to it yet, in the meantime I’ll just stick with dreaming of a time that might one day come.
I certainly have The Movies to thank for getting me into a five-year course studying media, which subsequently led to me starting my own freelance media business. That led to me creating music videos, and promotional videos for locals. Then I jumped into YouTube vlogging, and then I made music videos for five years while working at a TV station as a camera operator and director. All thanks to one video game giving me a creative outlet that inspired me to make a move into media.
Screenshots in this article were nabbed from Moby Games