Lights, Camera, Interaction! | Gaming | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Lights, Camera, Interaction!

Game On


Published December 28, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.

Hollywood is dumb.

One of the best rumors I've heard around the videogame business involves the well-known game creator Peter Molyneux and some Hollywood suit. Molyneux has made a name designing innovative and popular titles such as "Black and White" and "Fable." While Molyneux was working on a satirical take on the film industry titled "The Movies," a Hollywood guy allegedly inquired about making a film based on the new game.

"You do know what the game is about, don't you?" the game developer is said to have exclaimed.

Why would the movies want to make a movie about "The Movies?" Maybe because the idea of making a game about the movies sounds like a great idea and, as everyone knows, Hollywood devours great ideas.

This great idea bypasses the usual track of hybridizing film and game properties in an attempt to create an unstoppable pop culture cyborg. Instead, it lets players dabble in the venal, hip and complex world of movie making. Molyneux seems to understand what Hollywood often forgets -- that films are more than the celluloid running through a projector in a darkened theater. The movies sit at the center of a bigger drama of how they are made.

As a game, "The Movies" bustles with click-and-drag mania. Players hustle writers into bungalows to type, move scripts to casting, assign directors and actors to scripts, recruit new talent, and construct novel sets in order to keep hackneyed plots interesting. Out-of-control actors get sent to detox and obese talent finds salvation in liposuction. To make their studios look nice, cyber-studio heads plant grass and trees and hire janitors to pick up the trash dropped by bleary-eyed staff. Oh, and then there's the bottom line. This isn't charity work. Making movies better make money or somebody's in big trouble.

Running a studio could turn out to be as laborious as scraping Juju fruits up off the theater floor if the game didn't actually involve making movies. This game provides the opportunity to create original scripts and watch mini-versions of flicks produced by the studio.

A drag-and-drop script-creation tool provides a Lego system of story parts. Put one alien abduction here, one conversation in a musty basement there, one shootout with the military in a desert landscape there and voila! You have an "X Files" flick. Add a banana peel pratfall and you have an art film. Silly, to be sure. Then again, it's not all that far from how films are made in the real world.

The game begins with jumpy silent black-and-whites, consistent with the studio's beginning in the 1920s, then evolves through the cinematic ages. The movie clips themselves are short, stupid and barely narrative. But seeing actors on sets performing made-to-order scripts is an extraordinary ego boost. And that's the movies -- hard work and a treadmill of schedules and problems that lead to an end product which inflates the studio head's self esteem to the size of a hot air balloon.

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