I am impressed lately by how many literal genius-type folks are gamers. When I was 18, it seemed that role playing game type folks tended to be less mainstream than they are now; my friends who played the early versions of Dungeons and Dragons tended to be outcasts from the outcasts, charming people in many ways, but people so outre as to be
unacceptable to the outre folks. There was the fellow who was rumoured to have been relegated to a master's after long years graduate study towards a Ph.D. after the laboratory was blown up two too many times; there was the fellow who traded in his SCA jester's outfit for a more sedate woodsman persona, after he found it hard for people to take a jester seriously (myself, I trust jesters more than I trust most Republicans and more than I trust almost all people who subscribe to an "ism", so in hindsight I wonder if he was not mistaken).
The advent of the computer game, though, as well as the sheer inventiveness of the role playing game community, has over the years converted this subculture into a really respectable genre/movement. You can now do almost anything in a videogame that you can do in real life, and usually, you can do it better. Given that this is true, it is curiuous to me that when given unfettered virtual freedom, so many people want to hack on orcs and demon wizards, but I lack the cultural analysis skills to speculate on why this is so.
Now it's a mixed media question, though--we've seen both good games and bad turned into movies, sometimes good, largely bad. In some cases, as with the Angelina Jolie/Lara Croft situation, we are no longer sure which one is the "real girl" and which one is the "video girl". Could you imagine if the real reason why Winona Ryder shoplifted the merchandise was to get even for Angelina's Oscar winning supporting role in Winona's would-be vehicle "Girl, Interrupted"? Just imagine it--what's the one way to get back at Angelina for upstaging her on screen? Why, by hitting back where it really hurts--in video games. Seen in this light, Winona's shoplifting is not so much crime as high art--"Grand Theft Auto" made real, sans auto. Take that, Lara Croft--I can do a video game, and I can even get busted for it! Those scissored clothing tags weren't a cry for help--they were a cry to bring on the tombs that need raiding!
But today I am sitting here imagining how much more can be done with the movie/video game genre. I can think of so many movies that would benefit from conversion from cinema to computer game. Why bother to colorize something, when you can put it on a joystick? So many movies would benefit from Segazation. For instance, in the Wizard of Oz, wouldn't it be cool if instead of having to watch 1939 special effects, you could toggle that house right down onto the Wicked Witch? Wouldn't it be great to be able to have lion-grabbing range finders on the flying monkeys?
Of course, art films would be the biggest beneficiaries of the change to video games. Imagine the Seventh Seal, redone for the X box as "Chess Playing Death Dude". I can imagine Fellini redone as "The Sims--Mopey Italian Rocket Building Kit". Sometimes it will require some recasting, as illustrated by "Sonic and Tails' Last Tango in Paris" and
"2001 Mario Brothers Odyssey" (Mike: "What are you doing Mario?". Mario hits Mike with hammer. Coins come spitting out of Mike, and the computer is out of commission; Mario move on to the Starchild). I'll bet that some of those old movies could make real money in video.
Of course, on the video front, they never make the movies out of the "right" video games. Why make a Mortal Kombat video, for example? Mortal Kombat loses a lot when you can't toggle the weaponry. The low quality of violent video game plots translates directly into even lower quality movies. But it's just a matter of imagination. Let's get Phillip Glass to soundtrack a documentary--"Pong: the Movie". Now that's ambience! Of course, I personally would like to see ChessMaster 9000, the movie, although I suspect for the non-players it will be an acquired taste.
A much easier sell would be Kevin Smith directing Shannen Doherty in "Yugi-Oh: The Movie", but I don't think it's going to happen. After all, Peter Jackson proved that all you need to make any fantasy work is a deep love for the work and more computer animation than Sauron could imagine.
Shannen Doherty as trading card? I like it already. But maybe it works better the other way--imagine a video game about an actress who ends up fighting with the cast of two hit television series; no, never mind, that never happens, not even in virtual reality.
Do you ever get the feeling that we are all poised to see all media change,and all our current genres and technologies vanish, reformat, and rematerialize? I do, and I don't know what it means, but I kinda like it. But less guns, more plot, please.