Hey guys, it’s Joe Criger here. That’s just so that anyone who thinks using my real name will intimidate me online knows I use it everywhere, by the way. Today’s one of those days where not much happened in my life (I’m having a lot of them lately). Tomorrow, I might be getting my G2 license as long as I don’t speed or mess up the parallel park. I’m also seeing Alice Cooper live, with supporting act Anvil. And it’s also the deadline for the June 28th issue of The Escapist magazine–that website I said I frequent and whose video series I reviewed. Three of them. They have, like a hundred. All by people I may or may not agree with. Anyway.
The June 28th issue is about how video games and other media are starting to cross over and influence each other and become each other and how all of the influences are being felt all over the board. And because I thought no one would think of this without me, I submitted a pitch–today–for an article about how Inception and Sucker Punch are both movies made to be video games on the big screen. And while I’ll get to the body of that pitch soon, I thought I’d cover a few miscellaneous points first.
For instance, my friend and recording artist D-Sisive has released a remix of his song “Graffiti Wall” from his album Jonestown 2 using a Deadmau5 song as the beat. And let me tell you, friends: it is fantastic. Just click the above to hear it. It is a hot mess of contradictory, useless, senseless, meaningless partying that makes me want to dance to the story of how D-Sisive (fka Malicious) was defeated in a rap battle around the age of fifteen. And that’s hilarious. This is the latest in a series of hijacked beats from D-Sisive, and I’m curious to see what his next album brings us. Previously, we’ve had “If I Live to See Tomorrow…”/(SigurRos:Hijacked), “I Love a Girl”/(GrizzlyBear:Hijacked), “Anvil”/(DeadMan’sBones:Hijacked) and “Ambulance”/(TomWaits:Hijacked), in addition to TheIdiot:Hijacked–an album available somewhere if you can find it. And yes, I applied that title to those last two songs in retrospect. Keep up the good rapping, friend!
Anyway, here’s what you all were waiting for, my pitch to The Escapist. It’s going to be an article called “Video Games Writ Large Across the Silver Screen” if it’s published exclusively on my blog. But if it’s published over there first, videogame will have to be one word. They have pretty stringent style guidelines for people submitting. Also, it’s about how Inception and Sucker Punch are at least two examples of movies that are so heavily influenced by video games as to be a video game without any element of interactivity. Now, one’s really good and the other’s a hot mess of crud, but which one’s which I leave to the viewer. And hey, you might like both! In which case, keep playing those games, skippy.
The intersection of games and other forms of entertainment is getting bigger than ever–every day we read more and more articles about how gaming is leaking into books, comics, tea cozies, everything. Narratives are no longer a single medium business, with stories being told in everything from a TV series, a series of novels, a series of videogames, collectable merchandise flavour-text all meant to be consumed to get one story. But what happens when stories and narrative mechanics cross medium boundaries?
One of this past year’s Best Picture nominees used several videogame tropes and conventions to sell itself to an audience of people who play videogames–rather, people who would read The Escapist. And one of this year’s touted blockbusters did the same. Both Inception and Sucker Punch–movies at either end of the Tomatometer–had several videogame mechanics in the stories. And I’m not just talking about the obvious action movie parallels either, though those are certainly there.
Both movies involve layered narratives, built around a series of visually distinct locales in which our heroes have to achieve one goal before moving on to the next location. In Inception, we have the first layer of the dream and convincing Robert Fischer of his father’s love for him. In Sucker Punch, we have Baby Doll’s first venture into the fantasy world in her mind when she dances. And in that first venture into her mind, she has to survive against gigantic samurai. Going deeper in Inception, we see the same linear progression of “new location, new goal, new location, new goal” until the very last kick takes the team back up to the surface. And Baby Doll’s goals are laid out for her by the Wise Man in the first scene, simple thefts turning into fight scenes with mission objectives–just like level design in videogames.
Now, it’s obviously not a perfect lift from one to the other–there’s a difference in perspective between experiencing something as player and experiencing something alongside the protagonist. In videogames, we have “agency”: control over our own actions. In Super Mario Galaxy and Gears of War alike, we control the world of the game and how it affects us. Or, rather, our player-character avatars control the world of the game and how it affects them. They live or die by our action or inaction because we have total control over that world.
Yet, both Inception and Sucker Punch feature fantasy worlds where the protagonists deal with real-world problems–because in these worlds, they have control. It’s emphasized throughout both movies that the protagonist has final control over the world of the dream/fantasy. The architect makes the space of the heist in Inception and Baby Doll’s world is under her control in Sucker Punch–the agency of the protagonist is emphasized not as an inspirational lesson for the audience, but because these stories are videogames writ large across the silver screen.
Now, obviously, there are other similarities in audience and fandom to go into, but I really just wanted to get to the agency point in the initial pitch. Thanks for reading, and have a great day.
– Joe Criger