As games financially eclipse other media I'm starting to understand them not as films or prose with added button pressing, but as unique experiences in their own right. Focusing on their interaction rather than storytelling simply makes it obvious they are distinct from other media.
A game is a different animal to a film because it primarily engages me by granting control of proceedings rather than telling a story. This affects everything about them, from what we should expect to get from them, to when we play them, how immersive they are or how they move our emotions. Well written prose and dramatically rendered storytelling play a part but they are secondary to the main currency of interaction. Games connect with me not by telling stories, but by granting me control - they let me act out my dreams.
The difference can be seen in terms of uninterrupted directed experiences or films and books as opposed to the coincidental segmented interactive time we spend with video games. They work a different emotional seam to that of traditional storytelling. When I play a game I'm more a subject of my own imagination and distractions than I am of the developer. Although restricted and contained by the game's limits, it can no less control me than it can make me proceed at a particular pace.
Compare this to the dictated experiences of movies and books that lock us in to a highly directed story and you see how different they are. Games offer playful spaces that work with the player rather than dictating the action. Films however, create unchanging solid narratives that demand the viewer's full attention.
That's not to say that games can't draw on all those years of film making and writing experience. One game I recently fell for was Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. If ever there was a game to engage the emotions with storytelling, this is it. Here I found a peculiar phenomenon, cut scenes I didn't want to skip and storytelling that connected on an emotional level. In fact I recently realized that I had a slight disappointment each time a cut scene ended and I returned to the action.
As you know, it's the quality that Naughty Dog achieves that has set Uncharted 2 ahead of the pack. A raft of skills comes to bear here, but maybe the most telling is the commitment to record live voice and action in one take. The actor's performances are captured in all their glory and result in believable characters and relationships.