ALEX CHADWICK, host:
Gaming goes Hollywood. Evidence of the increasingly close link between movies and video games was everywhere at this year's edition of E3. That's the annual gaming industry convention held in Los Angeles. DAY TO DAY technology contributor Xeni Jardin went along and brought back this report.
XENI JARDIN reporting:
For every movie, it seems, there is now a game. Between the spokesmodels and nerd herds packing the aisles of E3, there are giant displays for game reincarnations of classic films like "The Godfather" and "Taxi Driver." Others hawk games that will launch with upcoming studio releases like Peter Jackson's "King Kong." There's even a game for this week's blockbuster, "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith."
(Soundbite of promotional video)
Unidentified Man: You can live the adventure 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
JARDIN: And you can hear more evidence of Hollywood's influence in the growing number of Hollywood stars lending their voices and likenesses to other big-game titles. The smash-hit Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas features the voices of Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Fonda and actor Wil Wheaton.
Mr. WIL WHEATON (Actor): The difference between movies and video games is that movies are very passive.
JARDIN: Best-known for his roles in "Stand by Me" and the television series "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Wil also voices characters in games like EverQuest II, Ghost Recon 2 and the forthcoming Tom Clancy title Rainbow Six.
Mr. WHEATON: If you're playing a video game and you're walking down a street and something interesting catches your eye, you turn around and walk back and look at it and maybe light it up with a flamethrower or something like that, you know?
JARDIN: As he wanders the loud, blinking, bleeping aisles at E3, Wil comes across the game version of the TV series "24."
Mr. WHEATON: On the screen in front of us, there's a guy here playing the game, and he's interrogating a suspect. And there's like a...
JARDIN: Also testing out "24's" game adaptation is E3 attendee Ben Rock, who works in television in Los Angeles.
Mr. BEN ROCK (E3 Convention Attendee): You know, living in LA, you're always hearing about the game industry is making so much more money than movies, and some of these games will make like a hundred million dollars or something ridiculous like that. Honestly, that's why I'm here. I kind of wanted to see what it was all about.
JARDIN: One thing it's about is profit. And wherever there's money, there's fightin'. Hollywood talent unions broke off talks with game producers last week when neither side could agree over providing actors with a share of video game profits. Gaming industry analyst Laszlo believes that as the lines between movies and games blur, the issues of how to compensate talent become more complicated.
LASZLO (Gaming Industry Analyst): The other interesting twist on that is that, you know, a movie's made in three or four months; with video games, you've got people coding for two years straight. Are they the actors, or are the people that get in front of a microphone and say, `Eek! I'm going to shoot you,' the actors? It'll be interesting to see how Hollywood deals with it.
JARDIN: The actors unions are threatening a strike against game manufacturers and picketed the event. Still, organizers say attendance set records. Fans like Wil Wheaton think games can often be even more engaging than movies. While the greatest of films may be lifelike, Wil says the greatest of games can become your life.
Mr. WHEATON: I played Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for about 170 hours. It could have been directed by, like, John Singleton, you know what I mean? It's a really incredible story. After 175 hours, when I finally finished the game, there was this incredible sense of sadness 'cause it was over. It's like your best friend is moving away and you don't get to talk to them anymore.
JARDIN: Of course, you could always find a new best friend when the next hot game title comes out. For NPR News, I'm Xeni Jardin in Los Angeles.
(Soundbite of promotional video)
Unidentified Man: Everything you need to fulfill your ultimate "Star Wars" fantasy is now together in one package.
CHADWICK: And you can see pictures from the Electronic Entertainment Expo, E3, gaming convention, at our Web site, npr.org.
CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY's a production of NPR News and slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.
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