KAZ: Pushing Product Placement

After reading on arstechnica about a new documentary called Kaz I was psyched to watch it. I’m no console player, but Gran Turismo is a household name by now. 馃槈 The documentary is about Kazunori Yamauchi the producer of this legendary game series. It promised insight into the thoughts and ambitions of a perfectionist mind funneled though the game making process to produce one of the most acclaimed racing car simulation games out there.

But what I went to see was utterly disappointing!

I expected insight into the process of capturing the “soul” of complex machines鈥搕hat cars have undeniably become鈥揳nd how they managed to produce a “piece of art” (in a visual and “feeling of realism” sense) so that they each car they put into the game feels and acts subtly, but recognizably different. I expected something along the lines of creator’s vision, technical process and production anecdotes (very much like the Oral History of Street Fighter 2).

How do you capture the very tactile nature of car racing and delivering it through a gaming console?

How do you deliver the sense of speed and deafening sound into the living room?

How do you make this livable so that people really think they have tasted a drip of the real experience?

Wouldn’t this be interesting to know?

There have been very different but good examples set by companies like Blizzard or id Software when it comes to this. (I’m only counting one-way communication here. so only videos, talks, interviews, etc.)
I loved the battle reports before StarCraft 2 came out or interviews with game director Dustin Browder talking about balance changes and giving insight into their weighing and thinking in the process.
On the other side you have people like John Carmack do after-the-fact (sometimes very technical) analyses of games his company produced on both very specific or very broad game development issues.

I have seen several documentaries that try to capture the fascination of gaming from the players side (e.g. The King of Kong) as well as some that try to show how certain very prominent games were made (e.g. Indie Game, Minecraft).

But this is nothing like any of them. It is a string of sterile interviews, shots in random (“industrial” looking) sceneries, with people (at best) vaguely related to the game, the industry, racing, the film or anything.

  • There are a bunch of random interviews with arists/crafts(wo)men neither of whom is involved in gaming or racing or anything todo with the movie.
  • Product placement
  • Interviews with a young racers and their families and trainers who have basically nothing to do with the game.
  • Pointless and empty phrases by car company representatives, etc. (e.g. Kevin Hunter makes me cringe)
  • Product placement
  • Endless聽adulation on how successful the GTAcademy is, without really going into how they actually recruit and train drivers
  • Irritating camera action (e.g. useless depth changes in interviews), superfluous shots and scenes just for product placement
  • And the list goes on …
  • Did I mention the product placement?

The only glimpse of how the game was actually made were in two short scenes: where they show how they digitize tracks and an interview with one of the games’ visual designers working on a track’s scenery.

The interviews with “Kaz” are interesting if it wasn’t for the over-the-top and totally artificial settings. There are also some rather bizarre outdoor shots with him in a forest and in a traditional around-the-corner restaurant. They seem like they were forcefully inserted to create the facade of a “happy” and “balanced” person … which seems odd … having a rough idea of the kind of mindset in both the (Japanese) corporate and the general gaming world.

It seems they were desperate to make one of the biggest game company’s largest and probably most expensive game productions look like a inspiring one-man handcrafted artsy garage project.

They basically failed really hard to portray it like an indie game (in spirit). The blatantly obvious and nonsensical product placements didn’t help either. So for a film trying to capture “feeling” it is a rather “over-engeneered” PR tool. Basically Sony achieved with KAZ what Morgan Spurlock couldn’t with The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

So thats why I’m angry … there is no feeling, no emotion, no insight in this film … it’s a piece coming out of a soulless marketing machine … sadly …

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