Oct 052005

Pacific Stump ©Gary Hayes 2005Films of games in my mind don’t cut the mustard. So why are they still making them? It comes as no surprise that Halo (a game which was part-epithany for me) is being made into a large scale feature film. Also not surprising that Mr. Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson is going to take charge as reported by Reuters yesterday.

Jackson and his wife, Fran Walsh, will serve as the executive producers for “Halo,” which is targeted for worldwide release in mid-2007 by Universal Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox film studios.
“Halo” will be shot in Wellington, New Zealand, and will use Jackson’s production and post-production facilities there.
“I’m a huge fan of the game and look forward to helping it come alive on the cinema screen,” Jackson said in a statement.

Big name producers aside I get the sense that this game remake of films or film remake of games shows a part lack of maturity and risk in the industry – understandable given the poor box office performance at the moment. A more mature industry would of course be confident to develop games and films in parallel, knowing that the two can be marketed well and have a life in the market (the matrix and a couple of others had a go at this – but not the norm). Even more important for the future are hybrids of the two – a film that is part game and a game that is part film. A real problem here for me is that ‘canned’ games (ones fixed on disks without online component) and ‘canned’ films (all of them!) are not that well…compelling anymore for the new audiences. The uptake in online gaming is massive, because it is dynamic and has surprise and human characteristic. I think it is really flogging a dead horse, cynical marketing and lacks innovation – the films that have been made from games are not exactly up there in my top 100, sorry 1000!

“By the time of its release, “Halo” will join other video-game inspired films such as “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “Resident Evil,” and “Doom.” But the industry’s Hollywood inroads have not been without bumps.”

This is more about brand exploitation than story of course and everyone knows it. I can’t imagine a screenplay getting past first post if it was pitched as “super-robot guy helps human soldiers kill aliens on strange planets” 😉 Suppose the real issue for me is that we all throw our personal constructs and emotions onto games when we play them – it becomes a unique experience, almost an event in our minds. I still remember a few long nights trying to get Lara through the canal level, yes I am not that good! But I now strongly associate Tomb Raider with Venice! Bizarre, that neural, cross-association thing again – my experience. Making a film of that event is more particularly a single (script writers route, or alternate story) journey through a non-linear game (well mostly non-linear – see previous post/article about serendipity “The Certainty of Chance“). It is like, well making a film that we can ‘relate’ to, familiarity but which is overtly articificial. I avoid talking about the differences between free-form game and narrative in this post as that is covered by a million voices outside but will refer you to this article by Gonzalo Frasca – which is a very accessible read. Part of the ludology vs narratology debate.

Back to this post. I wonder if this current trend by Hollywood is almost the last wag of the tail of ‘studio empire’ lion – the road from being the number one entertainment, to recycling b-movies to making a film about anything that has pulled the audience away from the box office, (video games). Will film itself move into its own genre – perhaps in 10-20 years when we refer to a film it will have it’s own connotation, something about people…perhaps and we can hope it will bring audiences back because cinema will be one of the few remaining mediums actually reflecting humanity. Still like games, in life we should still play with new forms in this cross-over period – some will rise, many will fail, I suggest most films of games or in fact any shared ‘personalized’ event might be one them.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005