Three Films that influenced the design and direction of Video Games.
Movies and Video Games are both visual mediums. While some movies have been derived from specific games, for the most part it has been Film that has served as an inspiration for game themes. Here are some examples of “Movies that Made Gaming.”
Enter The Dragon (1973):
The Movie that made Martial Arts movies popular around the world is also the inspiration for numerous fighting games. Bruce Lee uses an invitation to a martial arts tournament on a remote island to spy on a reclusive crime lord and obtain revenge for the death of his sister.
The tournament is a ‘fight to the death,’ of course. Sadly this is the last film he ever completed prior to his death.
Of course this idea of a invitational tournament is exactly the same theme of the“Street Fighter” (1987) and “Mortal Kombat” (1992) games. Mortal Kombat is the title that most resembles the film in my mind.
The story is that Mortal Kombat started life as a Jean-Claude Van Damme based game. However its theme and characters borrow heavily from “Enter the Dragon.” Perhaps the developers wanted to avoid licensing fees. Here is a comparison of the characters from “Mortal Kombat” and “Enter the Dragon.”
Liu Kang = Lee, Shaolin monk and lawful good.
Mary Sue = Su Lin, female protagonist in black pants.
Johnny Cage = Roper, fast-living karate expert and smart-mouth.
Kurtis Stryker = Williams, African American military man who lives for the fight.
Kano = O'Hara, mutilated-in-one-eye, wild-haired criminal gang leader.
Shang Tsung = Han, holder of an island tournament with a sinister purpose.
Goro = Bolo, Current (extremely large) tournament champion and right-hand man.
(yes, some of the names are similar … are they not?)
The 1995 movie adaptation of Mortal Kombat simply took the “tournament at a mysterious island” basis of “Enter the Dragon” and ran with it.
Other fighting games took up the ‘tournament’ idea as well. ‘Soulcalibur”’, ‘Tekken’, even this unfortunately named game that shipped when I worked at Activision:
On the iPhone and Android, these fighting games retain their popularity, “Street Fighter IV” being one of the top sellers.
Star Wars (1977, renamed “Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope):
Obviously there are “Star Wars Themed” games out there, but more basic link is that so many of us were inspired by these sequences to go into video games.
At the time I assumed these were computer graphics (they were not). I got into games to try to create these sort of games. The flying/fighting sequences (themselves inspired by WWII combat footage) directly inspired space-themed games like Star Raiders, Wing Commander and others.
Note: I shelled out $1200 of 1980 cash, as a struggling grad student, just to buy an Atari 800 and play Star Raiders.
The massively multiplayer space war game, Eve, is the logical conclusion of all of this:
So Star Wars inspired a generation of fans to get into video games and influenced games for decades to come, even if the sequels (as of late) has been less inspiring.
Blade Runner (1982):
Blade Runner didn’t inspire many games to copy it’s storyline but I contend it may have had the greatest influence on the look and feel of gaming. Blade Runner’s dark and gritty view of a future Los Angeles was a cinematic achievement.
This style was widely adopted by first person shooters and other titles. Take a look at this scene from Max Payne:
Some have speculated that in the early days of full 3D gaming, going dark made the graphics look better … but I think the ‘gritty’ images of “Blade Runner” had real appeal to audiences. Of course ‘Blade’ was influenced by classic 1950’s Film Noir movies like “The Asphalt Jungle.”
Leading to the latest in Sand Box gaming, LA Noir.
Gritty-ness coming full circle so to speak.
And the trend continues. Today I looked at a video clip from Gears of War 3 (Ask Me Anything), and the scene when they encounter a surviving resident in the town is the same shot (man standing at the top of a steel wall) as in the Post Apocalypse film “The Postman.”