Credit to Culture Hacker friend .tiff for showcasing this flash adaptation of “Cavern of the Evil Wizard”. CotEW, if you don’t know, is the King’s Quest-style adventure game that confounds 12-year old Josh Baskin and his friend, Billy in the 1988 Penny Marshall directed Tom Hanks vehicle, Big. It’s a small detail, but, from a dramatic POV, it probably works better than anything else in the movie (saving Robert Loggia). The dramatic pay-off occurs in the movie’s final act when the pre-teen Baskin, in a 30-something Tom Hanks-ish body is able to return to the game with enough growth and insight to solve the problem that flummoxed him in his kid body. He’s still just a kid inside, but he’s progressed according to his own clock (not Zoltar’s)
It’s a scene that any gamer kid born post 1970 can relate to, but I think it’s particularly memorable because it was a truly accurate depiction of a period game’s assets, user interface and general experience. Although CotEW was created specifically for the movie, it was clearly made with a familiarity of Sierra and Mindscape published games of the mid to late 80s.
This is a superior interpretation compared to how interactive entertainment is usually conveyed in dramatic mediums (TV, movies). Traditionally, console, PC, and sometimes even real life games are mimicked and reproduced poorly. Here’s a list of bad examples.
- The Columbine kids playing FPS games in Gus Van Sant’s Elephant.
- Multiple Episodes of Law & Order mimicking EverQuest, Second Life and other flavors of the day.
- Tron, eXistenZ, The Lawnmower Man and most attempts to “suck players into the game” usually ends up playing to dramatic conventions while employing a gamey aesthetic, but it’s really just a style choice, and has nothing to do with how people actually play.
- Sundry examples that depict actors violently button mashing, convulsing and gyrating–something gamers never do. Ok, rarely do.
On the other hand, there are good examples. South Park, not surprisingly, always gets it right. Veronica Mars showcases Fable effectively, without actually pimping the game by name, and Zombieland’s WoW references are spot on. In the LARPing world, Even Role Models gets it pretty good, way better than, say The Game, or even Tag: The Assassination Game.
Thoughts on other good or bad examples of interactive entertainment depicted in a non-interactive, dramatic medium? Why do director always misrepresent “play”? My guess is, they aren’t gamers and/or are worried they’ll alienate the massive non-gaming audience if they’re faithful. The art house directors like Cronenberg and Van Sant probably don’t care, happy to convey abstract notions instead of accurate representations.
Posted in gaming movies