In the latest series of Five In Focus articles we ask a group of computer game designers to list the movies that have influenced them most in their work.
The Cube movies are great — top-notch pulp metaphysics, the perfect blend of Pirandello and junky science fiction/horror. This is a movie about game design — watching these characters attempt to master the interlocking mysteries of this artificial space. It's better than Lost in that respect, especially because it has a kind of minimalist formal and structural purity. I would love to make a Cube game. My version would be large-scale, massively multiplayer, and persistent, and have lots of tricky dilemmas that required players to collaborate in counter-intuitive ways.
I love Tarkovsky. His films are deeply soulful and at the same time chilly, distant, alien. This is a powerful combination for me. No one holds a shot too long as good as Tarkovsky. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a great videogame inspired by this movie. In many ways they are very different, but both have a beautiful strangeness to them, and both are full of unusual design choices driven by an eccentric but consistent aesthetic logic. As a result, they both have something missing from most movies and most videogames, which is a strong individual personality, a genuine sense of style.
When people talk about whether games can be meaningful culture they usually talk about big, thematically-driven games that have complex narratives or address serious themes. Wordplay looks at the least-ambitious, most unassuming kind of game imaginable, the lowly crossword puzzle. By showing us how crossword puzzles fit into the lives of the people who love them, this movie gives us an important insight into how games work as culture. When the Indigo Girls talk about how solving puzzles is like composing music, I get chills.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
This is the only movie I can think of that directly influenced a particular game of mine. We made a game called Shark Runners about being a marine biologist and sailing the ocean chasing sharks. One of the features in the game was you could pick another player and make him or her your "rival,” and that was specifically inspired by the relationship between the Bill Murray and Jeff Goldblum characters in this movie. I love the interplay between them — it never devolves into good versus evil. Passionate competition that drives you to surpass yourself to the point of ridiculous obsession and then beyond, that's what games are all about.
First and foremost, because it's Hitchcock, and watching Hitchcock do his thing is just a totally inspiring masterclass in how creative vision emerges out of technical craft. Then because the movie itself is like a game — the limited resources, the hidden information, the conflicting agendas, the alliances and betrayals, the psychological second-guessing, the struggle for power and the struggle to survive. All of it unfolding in a compressed and artificial space cut off from the rest of the world.