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First it changes your mind, then your body

April 22, 2010

For someone who doesn’t particularly care for video games, I kind of post about them a lot. But I do like movies and there are some fun ones about games. I wanted to take a quick look at a handful of video game movies, a few more male-dominated and a few more female. Not adaptations of video games, but rather movies about video games. And while some are more commentaries on reality television, the general idea of being a game is still there.

I want to start with Battle Royale because it may be my favorite and it never hurts to start things off with a bit of ultra-violence. If you don’t like violence or don’t want to be spoiled for the end of this movie, don’t watch. But I’m kind of going to spoil you with my analysis anyway so…
So the gist, Japan is collapsing and the youth are getting way out of control so the government passes the Battle Royale Act. This act sends a randomly selected class of ninth graders to an island where they’re given weapons and forced to kill each other. The last one standing wins. Disturbing yes, but such an awesome movie. This one counts as one of my female-dominated ones. There are a lot of girls in the class, the winner of the previous game was a girl, and the host is a girl. It’s heavily girl populated.


Next up, Series 7: The Contenders. I think this movie is supposed to be darkly funny, and I guess I could see how that works, but mostly I just find it disturbing. Fun, but disturbing. Kind of a theme.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Similar in theme to Battle Royale, random selection, last one standing lives. What’s fun about this movie is that the reigning champion is a pregnant woman. What’s even more fun is the way the current players talk about her in interviews. Other people who are now playing the game, who are going to be asked to do the same things she was only not while pregnant describe her as a soulless monster, and various derivations. Her nickname from viewers is even Bloody Mama, but, as she says, she’ll do whatever it takes to protect her baby.

Now on to some male game movies. Death Race, the remake not the original, is like Series 7 set in a prison. Death row inmates compete in a deadly race and the first one to win however many races gains their freedom.
Here the women are relegated to the evil warden, the sexy navigator, and the dead wife. Joan Allen does do a deliciously evil warden, though. It is, otherwise, a movie about men, some wrongly convicted, some looking out for each other, and some killing a lot of folks.

So if Death Race and Series 7 had a baby, what would it look like? Gamer. Same deal, prisoners sign on to be living, breathing avatars controlled by gamers and if they win enough they get their freedom. Imagine Halo, but it’s real people you’re playing.
Again, women are wives in need of rescue, greedy talk show hosts, or angelic saviors from the resistance. One fun thing you do get with this movie is Michael C Hall dancing. It’s not worth the price of admission, but it’s worth the hour or so it takes to download. Other than that, it’s just a movie about men and their games. Oh, there is the supreme ridiculousness of the final bit of the trailer, “Go to Xbox LIVE for exclusive content from GAMER.” Does no one on either side of the equation realize this movie is afraid of games?

The crown to this post will take us back to Cronenberg because he makes many awesome things. Existenz.
Allegra Geller is a game designer. Her games require that players install a port in the base of their spine so that they can plug into the controller. The fantastic thing about the controller is that the cord plugging into you looks like an umbilical cord and the controller looks like some blobby sort of creature. There’s an intimacy to the playing of the game, from the inserting the thing into your body to the way you sort of caress the controller in the playing of the game. Another fun bit of gender play occurs when Allegra installs a port on Ted Pikul, newbie gamer. I mean, hello, the flip on who’s penetrating who? Even if it is just a game controller. Oh the ways Cronenberg does sex.

Whether it’s a female or male-dominated game movie, the game is always something to be feared or escaped from. It’s never about how great and rewarding the game can be. All these films are directed by men, but even the Kathryn Bigelow directed Strange Days, which is not a full blown game movie, but VR does play a role, paints VR as an addiction and something that could potentially destroy your life. I’m not all that surprised by this, it’s a gender-neutral fear. Technophobia always makes a good movie. More so than shiny, happy technology yay! It’s an unknown, it’s probably going to continue to be an unknown for a long while, and that’s always scary. It does make me wonder how much this plays into consumers impressions of video games and what they’re doing to their psyche. I mean, yes, people understand the difference between fiction and reality, but when one message so heavily dominates I can’t help but think it starts to leave an impression. That is my thing, after all, representation.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. greenstring permalink
    April 23, 2010 8:01 am

    These films do seem to speak to a very real fear of video games. And, yes, even technology. Sadly. Though I suppose seeing your fear represented can be cathartic?

    Your infinite knowledge of films never ceases to amaze me. Of course, when I saw the first couple of clips, I thought of…a book. Ha. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, a fantastico YA trilogy. (The third of which will come out in the fall).

  2. greenstring permalink
    April 23, 2010 8:03 am

    Oh, and kudos to you for all the video game love.

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