The book is better…

How often have you heard “the book is better than the movie”? Quite often? Well, I hear it all the time from friends who enjoy reading. But I’ve come up with a theory on why they always say that!

I’ve often wondered how could media which incorporates imagery, sound effect, music, actors – where everything is literally portrayed for you, be inferior to printed text – a type of media that has been around for centuries? But I think that is exactly the problem.

When people read books, the connotations of the chosen words invoke the readers’ imagination. It’s up to the reader to build the world of the story. Of course, the words will help steer the reader into creating a similar image to the writer’s, but it will never be the same. It brings out their own perception of the story’s world.

Like I was taught in college that “my map is different to your map”. If you get people living in different areas to draw a map. The area they live closest to will always be more detailed than the rest of map. An example is if I drew the world map, the England area will be much more detailed and accurate than say Russia. The opposite would also hold true – if a Russian drew a map, Russia would be clearer and well defined than England.

So what has this got to do with anything? Well, in a movie, everything is to how the director perceived the story and this may be very different to the audience’s vision. Another reason is that the audience has been taken away from the creation process so they’re actually a step away from the experience. It’s no longer a world where you could taste and breathe the air. It’s now a collection of moving images and sounds made by someone else.

This also applies to experience driven medium such as games – probably even more so with Role Playing Games (RPGs). When I was young(er), games like Shining the Holy Ark and Final Fantasy VII had pictures and text but nobody actually speaks (no voice). So the voices were filled in by you. Everything was also a bit pixelated so we had to fill in those details ourselves too (with the help of cutscenes). Technology has advanced to the stage where more and more features can now be added to the game. Look at Final Fantasy XIII, there is so much detail throughout the game. Every time a character or monster performs an action, you’ll hear and see everything they do. So again, this takes away the players freedom of imagining their preferred actions and sounds/voices.

It’s very funny how people take more enjoyment out of it if they have a sense of ownership. I guess deep down everyone thinks their own map is more accurate than anyone else’s.