Filmspiration and the three reasons to make a game

Film was a love of mine before games were. My first theatrical memory is sitting at the drive-in watching Luke Skywalker battle a Rancor. That kind of thing leaves a lasting impression on a young child’s mind! The magic of Star Wars back then was that I think many adults felt like I did…the wonderment of a child all over again. It was many years before another movie hit that mark again.

That movie was The Matrix and it brought philosophy and technology to the mainstream (not necessarily in that order). Although hailed for its action cinematography and bullet time, nearly every action film device they used was pioneered in Blade before the Matrix’s release. Blade did not capture the mainstream and therefore was lost in cinematic history. It isn’t who does it first, it is who does it in front of enough people to count. But what do these two movies have to do with making games?

Since these are the kinds of stories that got me inspired I was trying to think of what the equivalent in the gaming world it was and it occurred to me that there were largely three “reasons” or “types” of games to make.

My initial gaming inspirations would probably be titles like: Wing Commander, X-Wing/Tie-Fighter, Space Quest, Kings Quest, Wolf 3D, Doom, Duke 3D, Dune 2, Warcraft 2, etc. Some of these genres have basically died (space and point/click adventure) and others are at the top of their game (first person shooters) and yet others dominate new markets (World of Warcraft). What is the secret to why these games are great? Tonight I was having a few ideas I would like to share to categorize: Fantasy enablers, Brain Teasers and New Experiences.

  1. Fantasy enablers: Let the player do things they always wanted to. Some examples: Wing Commander (live star wars), GTA (do whatever you want in a city), Star Craft (be a military commander), World of Warcraft (fantasy archetypes in an altered world), Rock Band (be a star). Games are interactive, the biggest strength is by giving into players desires. If you are trying to mimic the real world, enabling what people want to do/experience is a good way to target players.
  2. Brain teasers:The brain is a muscle, people like to exercise it. Some game examples: Tetris, Brain age, Bookworm.
  3. New experiences: This is the meaty one that is more like film. Star Wars showed people a new world/place. The Matrix did as well. In a craft like film, doing Fantasy enablers or brain teasers was done in the first years of the genre because it WAS new. If you look at modern film, it is more about how a story is told than the structure of the story itself. Writers don’t make the huge bucks. Actors do because it is how the story is executed and perform that counts. I think you are starting to see that crafting in games. What games have you played lately that took you someplace new? For me the only really new world that I played in a fictional sense was Bioshock. In a play sense, it is every iconic first game in a genre (Wolf 3d, Dune 2, Tetris, etc.). I haven’t played a new one of these in a long time. Are games so close to art progression that the realistic is gone and the new experience will need to be surreal? Personally I don’t think so…especially since most the innovation in this area is in controls. I listed Rock Band in Fantasy Enabler but the accessories also make this a new experience for most. It makes music more accessible.

Perhaps Rock band/guitar hero are examples of all three in unison. Fantasy of being a rock star combined with a puzzle/coordination packaged in a new control experience. Sounds like a formula for success!

Do you have films or games that have inspired you? I would love to hear your thoughts on them and why they captured your attention.

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