Random thoughts on most things from A. M. Craig.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

I See Games

If there was any ambiguity about my geek status, lets put that to rest here and now. I don't really want to dwell on the subject, so I'm going to try to get this all out of my system in one post.

There was a time in my life when I was sadly addicted to the video game Half-Life. Don't get me wrong on the sadly designation, it was (is) a great game, but I don't want to be addicted to anything. I had to play it, though, had to continue till I got all the way through it. Dang those skilled game designers, pulling you in and not letting go till the credits roll.

Then, several years later, I got hooked on the sequel. I held off on buying it till I it wouldn't ruin my life (i.e. I had enough time to satiate the compulsion to play it through). I played HL2, HL2E1, and HL2E2 from beginning to end in about a week. And Portal (awesome game). Haven't touched them since. I never even tried Team Fortress. The multiplayer aspect doesn't interest me. I'm more drawn to the cinematic, storytelling aspect of gaming that Valve excels at, as well as the problem solving scenarios the player is put through.

If you want to get an idea of what the games are about, here is a 60 second synopsis video (in German).

Since I played HL2 through, there have been a couple times when I've seen the game in places it doesn't really belong. Examples follow.

Exhibit 1A: Loader at Black Mesa
The Loader is a prominent vehicle in the Black Mesa Research Facility in the first Half-Life game. The initial scripted sequence shows the loaders performing a number of tasks for the lab. I really loved them when I first played the game, no doubt part of my love for robotics.

Exhibit 1B: Loader in the HBLL
Saw this at the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU. There are clear differences and clear similarities. The Loader in the game walked and had a grasping arm. The HBLL loader had legs for static stability only, and an extending arm for...well...window washing, I think. Not as glamorous, but you get the idea.

Exhibit 2A: Hunters
The Hunter is a three legged bio-mechanical enemy in the game. You're never quite sure if it is more machine or living creature. They prove surprisingly agile and genuinely frightening when you get caught up in it all.

Exhibit 2B: Twin-Reflex Camera
I just bought an old Kodak Duaflex II, and I'll be darned if I didn't first see a Hunter without legs.

Exhibit 3A: GLaDOS Eye
GLaDOS is the artificially intelligent enemy in Portal. It's not Half-Life, but they both take place in the same diegetic world. At the end of the game, we see a storage room with spare "eyes" for the machine (along with the fabled cake).

Exhibit 3B: Pollen Detecting "Robots" (sensors)
Though I doubt the designation "Robot" (from what I can tell, they don't move), these pollen detectors in Japan look eerily like they are plotting against me. Maybe they plan on killing us all with allergies. Throw a cake in there and it could be the same room.

There are other examples, but these are the best.


Something else I've thought about is a not so popular idea: A Half-Life Movie. I know, I know, video-game-to-movie conversions are invariably bad. Think Mario Brothers, Tomb Raider, or Doom for some of the better known examples. Or anything Uwe Boll has done. I think he is a despicable person, and an insult to the title film-maker. All of his movies suck, and are sadly representative of the game-gone-movie genre.

But I also assert that there is no reason a video-game to movie conversion has to be bad. Why should they be? Games are fun, movies are fun, they're both a moving visual medium, they're both prone to action. Why can't the two seem to get along?

Because film-makers haven't taken advantage of the video game's great strengths. They already have a fan-base, so appeal to that. There are very few video-game movies that the fans of the game are pleased with. They need to show and use the favorites from the game, the favorite weapons, the favorite enemies, the favorite, places. NOT completely new weapons, enemies, and places that vaguely resemble the game.

The Half-Life Movie could be viable with the right people behind it. Try somebody like Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. The men behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz would be perfect. They've proved very talented with dark comedy (involving zombies), and that's what this would have to be. The game is dark and violent, but it is a game, and shouldn't take itself too seriously, thus a comedy film.

Wright comes by the name rightly, as his gift for writing is clear to anybody who watches his movies more than once. They're airtight, not a wasted line in them. So who better to tackle the responsibility of writing a film where the protagonist incidentally never speaks, somebody whose facial expression or lack thereof tell all that needs to be said? It opens the door right up to supporting characters comically interrupting him when he might speak or interpreting his silence. Pegg as Gordon Freeman wouldn't be any problem, his British accent isn't even an issue. Nick Frost could be...I don't know...a zombie. He could be every zombie.

They would, of course, have to also work in a sequence with first person perspective, maybe a shot from the internal camera of the HEV suit.

Where it starts and stops chronologically in the Half-Life story almost doesn't matter, though given a choice I'd say start at the beginning. With the success of a first, they could turn it into a successful franchise film. Everybody wins.

This post is too long. I'm tired. Let me know what you think.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention, what first got me thinking about his was my first viewing of Shaun of the Dead. I was surprised I hadn't seen an accompanying video game to go along with it. Then I thought, "Well, if no studios want to make it, the fans should. They could build a mod on the HL2 engine, like the Black Mesa project (that is taking forever)". Then the idea struck me that the Shaun of the Dead people should do a Half-Life movie. There you have it.

UPDATE 2: I just saw this.
Dust Mite Totally Looks Like Headcrab
see more Celeb Look-A-Likes


Jasie said...

great idea. you know, Edgar Wright has a blog on myspace which he updates regularly and claims to read the comments people make on it. maybe you should get on there and pitch your idea.

Austin said...

Good idea. I should contact him and Valve both, and really push it. Can you imagine how cool it would be if something I proposed was actually put into production!?