James Cameron’s Hollywood Reversal

by on Feb.03, 2006, under games design, mmorpg, moviez, new media

Like the Hollywood fare that inspires them, typical tie-in games for movies usually follow the same tired formula. A reskinned Quake clone where you follow the plot along as the protaganist (with suitable cut-scenes to prop up the story, ugh), and you uh, jump…and shoot stuff. Or possibly a themed RTS set in the movie’s universe, where you… destroy stuff.

Games based on movie franchises are NEVER as successful (monetarily or aesthetically) ones based on original IP.

Enter James Cameron, finally resurfacing from being underwater for like the last 20 years. Cameron intends on taking the classic movie-game concept and turning it on its end. This ambition is currently called, Project 880, and he essentially wants to make a multiplayer game and movie simultaneously, and then release the game first. The idea is that players will explore the universe and become familiar with it (addicted?), then go watch the movie to experience one thread within the gameworld’s narrative.

Hmmmmm. Is this a transparent marketing play, or a legitimate exploration in game-movie interactivity? Remember, the story I linked is in Business Week.

Cameron is not stupid, and this has never been done before. Lucky for him, this fact alone might make game and movie sell magnificently. Clever marketing, indeed. Risky, too! What if the game turns out like The Matrix Online? Yek.

Yet, as a seasoned optimist, I couldn’t help but race the possibilities around in my mind. The project seems interesting, but only when you start to think about it.

Lets assume that Cameron doesn’t care about marketing or money. Lets pretend, for a moment, that all he cares about are games.

Lets also believe that the game is so full of awesome, that you quit your job, your family and bowling club in order to fully experience everything it has to offer.

So what would a game-vie look like? Which compliments the other? In this perfect universe of gamedom, which entity benefits more? The movie? Or the game?

  • Consider that the fictional universe is fully realised and documented within peoples’ heads before the movie starts. In this case, the movie gets the benefit here, as the setting has been established, allowing it to concentrate on other things… like plot!
  • The movie’s subtext is readily understood. Here, the movie benefits again, as it inherits from a significant base of knowledge for the viewer. This provides Cameron an opportunity for more content within the film without having to explain its presence. That is, making nods and homages toward the game’s setting and characters in an effort to make it more entertaining. (Moviegoer : “Wow, those characters got ganked in the exact same spot I did!”)
  • The visual imagery and effects are incredible. This notion boosts the game, without question. With a Cameron budget, the game can only help to inherit the rigourous production calibur of a blockbuster film. In this, the game will most likely look fantastic, as the design and attention of an excellent production studio will be devoted to it.
  • Great performances and top-notch acting talent. The hype of a Cameron film, and the budget that he’ll undoubtably command, will attract high quality talent. This will obviously benefit both, but here’s a chance to make a game that actually has good voiceover work. 🙂
  • Story. I’m having a hard time imagining how the game may help the movie’s story, or vice versa. Perhaps when the player returns to the game after having seen the movie, they may discover another dimension to the game experience.

In the end, this isn’t quite as exciting as I had thought, as this seems more of a vehicle for the movie. Its hard to see it for much more than that. Yes, the setting and the imagery will likely be incredibly compelling, but the game has to be innovative and fun in order to justify this unique and directed combination.

Now, what if the outcome of the gameworld influenced the outcome of the movie? Now that’s exciting, and would make me want to play it (if only to witness the influencing elements firsthand). Sadly, with the extreme scheduling of the film business, this would probably never be possible.

How about you? If this mythical awesome-filled game were to appear tomorrow and offer you a chance to “direct” the plot of the movie, would you play it?

7 Comments for this entry

  • Kafka

    Aye, true dat. Thank-you's...

    Battle Angel or not, I'm quite excited to see a new Cameron scifi effort. It may well be fodder for my popcorn bucket, but fun nonetheless!

    On the games side of it, well, I'll wait until we hear more before I pass judgement for good or ill. Further reading has revealed that Cameron is a major stakeholder in "Multiverse" (a free MMO/hosting solution that I've posted about in the past). So any MMORPG project will likely utilize that engine.

    If this is not promising, then at least its interesting. 🙂
  • b1alpha

    I liked your I'd say thats about right post on slashdot that is also what I am talking about.
  • b1alpha

    Aye thats what im talking about. So I checked out battle angel, and I couldnt find a trailer. "She has a completely artificial body, lost her memory, found in a wreckage, reconstituted by a cyber-surgeon."
    That has a lot of sexual undertones and I would like to see who plays the girl-bot. What a macho guy, I hope the father figure is more of a george micheal thing and less of a poppa smurf thing, but we shall see..

  • Kafka

    Brendor - I think the project would be cool if there were direct links from the game into the movie... even if the tieins were as wide-reaching as having the movie depict the winning faction. Without such linkage, my interest level drops precipitously.

    Uno - Sorry, yes, I thought I recognized the reference. Who else agrees that Cameron should just keep doing scifi until the end of time? He does it so well.

    There was some speculation that Battle Angel was going to be the MMORPG project, but it turns out that its not true. Cameron is attached to battle angel, but not until after Project 880. Has anyone seen it?
  • thedeviluno

    I was quoting dark angel..another one of camerons brilliant ideas.
  • thedeviluno

    Max Guevara: Look, one thing I'm not is a chump. You want to get the rest of your ass shot off... be my guest, but I kind of like being able to walk.
  • b1alpha

    Oh of course I would want to play a game where I have a chance to be totally freeking famous. I mean, its like taking the video game geek from Korea, he is so well famous there, and doing the same except in NA we don’t care about who can play video games, but what we do care about is who is in the latest Cameron movie. So yes I would want to play said choose your own movie game, the game would draw in so many people due to the fact that the storyline is completely linked to a bunch of gamers who really exist, who you really got pooned by. Its REAL.. haha, and we are all going to see the film to reminisce, and acceptance of the fact we played so much of it. Mind you did you think resident evil was that good? Naw it was ok, and I did die in the same places with the same dogs. It wasn’t an MMORPG! And those character names, well I want to see Brendor the Barbarian as the lead characters name or else its not factual.

    Great expectations though, I hope its as good as you say it might be,


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