There are lots of game fans that would claim that this distinction is what makes games superior, but for a lot of people I think that's what turns them off. The passivity is a virtue in many places.
I'll give you an example. At a board game company, I do those too, I proposed a card game where playing the cards moved the story along, and each section of the story formed pages in a comic book format. At the end of the game you could take pictures o the "pages" and put them for others to enjoy. Then mix the cards up gain, and since the play order would be different, a slightly different story resulted. I say slightly because if it was a murder mystery a replay wouldn't make it a story about horses.
I think that games are ready for the next evolution and that will continue the killing of movies and TV.
Our take is - let the viewer be as passive as they want. We're making a narrative-heavy experience, just like films and TV. But we're adding an interactive twist so the viewer can change how the story unfolds. And there's no reason we can't let the viewer just hit play and watch the story unfold as-is. We encourage them to jump in, of course, but that's it - otherwise, the story goes along it's glide path till the end of the episode. And when they're done, maybe they'd like to watch it again, but make a decision part way in to see how it effects the story.
A more mainstream example would be some on Nintendo's most recent work. They've done a great job embracing the casual audience, and really pushed it in the most recent Super Mario Bros for the Wii - it actually included the ability for the game to play itself when players get stuck:
Passive vs Active is tricky balancing act, and we're probably going to need to iterate on this a few times before we get it just right. But we definitely think the balance can be struck in a way that'll resound with a casual audience more apt at consuming TV then video games.
It's worth loading up an Amiga emulator (WinUAE or E-UAE) and getting hold of them - getting legal copies would be tricky, but copies abound...
I mentioned King of Chicago in particular because it was the most movie-like of the games - as I mentioned, if you just start it, it will run like a movie, complete with rolling movie like credits, but their other games have much of the same feel to them though you had to drive most of them forward by taking actions. E.g. Rocket Ranger, Defender of the Crown, It Came from the Desert, Wings are some of their best known titles, all heavy on narration and heavily inspired by movies.
It reminds me of one of freddiew's Behind the Scenes video, in which him and Jon Favreau were talking how it's so nice when someone provides the toys/funds, but at the end of the day it's the actual artists who call the shot. Why not apply the same kind of contracts movie studios make with directors and actors (base amount, and maybe some % of revenue), in reverse, so the artistic driving force between the project negotiates the same amount of deals with the financier. It would be like a VC deal, where some people/companies would have preferential treatment at getting the money back and all that.
Why do we need to?
I hear this sentiment from gamers sometimes, where passive (story told to you) entertainment is almost used in a derogatory way, as if the fact that the audience is not actively participating makes it worse. It seems to me a kneejerk reaction to years of everyone treating gaming as an illegitimate artform.
Why do we need to change this behavior? What is wrong with consuming stories about other people?
There's some great work going on there - the big difficulty isn't the producing or financing, though. I'm part of the Seattle webseries community, and the big difficulty I keep seeing is - how do you get your series in front of people?
So in a sense - I think marketing is the killer if you're going to compete head-to-head with Hollywood.
A simple answer would be 'social proof'. Mashable provides a TopTen list of the most watched shows. That's a good start but the site is too distracting for Average Joe, in my opinion.
Also, web series are too short for true passive entertainment. I guess what your communities would need is a sort of Google Adsense, so you could plug-in advertising to be able to produce longer streams.
That would at least provide you with some money. When one show hits it big, that'll make news, and more people would start looking for shows like that. More eyeballs, more advertising, better chances of another hit, more news, and there you go.
You don't need to out-market Hollywood (though achieving parity may be part of the equation). You need to create a more efficient production cycle, from artist to costumer.
I'm thinking lean start-up. How can we reduce cycle time between artist conception of an entertainment pitch and consumers evaluating it?
Lean Start-up says reducing this cycle time should make the system fitter.
And I'm not dodging your assertion either, because games can also be passive. I've spent god knows how many hours watching Starcraft II games - well more than I'd like to admit. That's a game that was built with spectators in mind. I probably enjoy watching the game more than playing it, as wonderful as it is. Apparently so do other people, TwitchTV is evidence enough.
1 - http://vgsales.wikia.com/wiki/Video_game_industry
From my personal experience, I used to actually play all the video games I thought was fun. However, ever since college ended, and when I have to use my time more wisely, playing a demanding video game counter intuitive as a stress relief. However, watching my roommate play video game is both entertaining and lacks the necessary attention I would need to attribute if I were playing the game. Of course, after watching my roommate play Skyrim twice might get a bit old. But then again, who watches the same TV show for over 30 hrs straight? I don't care how good mad men is, if I were to do two or three consecutive marathon of it, I would get tired of it too.
Maybe an easier way to distribute indie movies to a wide audience?
But I suspect that game production has been Hollywoodised; you have big publishers and big studios and whole teams of people. It's getting better with the rise of indie gaming, but that's still a tiny fraction of the market.
I don't think that fraction is all that tiny any more.
You already see more and more games use licensed engines, and eventually the power of the platforms we deal with will intersect with rising quality of low cost or free engines at point where most people can start with an existing low cost engine and compete technically.
We started with a situation where off-the-shelf game engines was unthinkable, because game engines were optimized for a specific gameplay and intertwined with the game logic, but already there's a huge market for games made on licensed engines (and as far back as the 80's you had the first attempts at making "game maker" programs that used off the shelf engines and tools to cut the effort of making games)
Similarly on the art side you can expect to see more and more advanced tools that take away technical complexity of working on the art and return the focus to the art process itself and even simplify that.
E.g. consider a hypothetical tool where an artist creating a new character can pick from a catalogue of hundreds of pre-made skeletal structures, choose characteristics of the muscles and size, movement characteristics etc., pick from pre-made physical characteristics as a starting point for alterations, pick from catalogues of clothes, hair, eyes and so on - even other parts like the voice of the character, and have the software fill in the rest in terms of animation and other aspects.
Imagine a cottage industry of artists that design catalogue items for tools like this - you can already license tons of ready-made 3D models, after all, as well as specialized software for things like creating landscapes, plants, trees and a bunch of other 3D structures.
Of course none of this would remove the need for developers or artists, but it will free them to focus on game play and the actual art rather than how to work around technical limitations, and it becomes a massive leveller for smaller teams if you can start with an off the shelf engine, and populate your game with a bunch off catalogue item characters and then customize rather than having to start from scratch.
Incidentally a lot of these changes will eventually benefit independent movies as well in terms of making advanced CGI and postprocessing cheaper and more accessible.
Players like me want to play on our own terms and come and go as they please. I used to play a lot of WoW but shutting down all my VMs and rebooting out of Linux to do so is now a big disincentive. I have tried to get into some PS3 games but the long mandatory updates the system forces you into just makes me hate it. Oh my god and the loading screens that plague the PS3 are just horrid.
(Sorry I'm not trying to complain, just trying to give you guys some ideas. :-)
To become very specific: Portal is a fine game. And much shorter.