Winception

It’s been a pretty poor summer blockbuster season, even by usual standards, but Christopher Nolan’s superb Inception has more than made up for the turkeys. It’s a film with as much brain as brawn, and never loses sight of its emotional core, even as its plotting gets progressively more convoluted. It’s also a film that really deserves to be seen cold, and I was hugely disappointed to hear that a couple of people I know had had the film spoiled by an idiot on Facebook. Hopefully most of you will get to see it before some numpty decides to give away key plot points over the internet.

Weirdly, one of the first thoughts to enter my head as I exited the cinema was of videogames, and I asked myself why more game-makers aren’t exploring the kind of impossible worlds of Inception’s dreamscapes. We have a medium where the impossible can be made possible, yet so many game-makers are focused on making ever more realistic experiences. While I can understand the need for consistency in a game world, why do we focus on either the real or the abstract? Why not have a world which blends both? In Inception, there are a number of sequences which play around with gravity as the dream world is manipulated – why don’t we see more of this in games? We sometimes see abstract or fantastical worlds with realistic physics, but why not do the opposite? It’d be fascinating to see games exploring dreamlike worlds, and it’s a pity that it could take something like Inception to influence game-makers, to remind them of the power and the malleability of dreams.

If all that a generation of developers takes from Inception is that gravity-defying fight scenes and surrealism blended with realism are cool ideas, then I can happily live with that.  They can worry about its subtlety and ambiguity at a later stage.

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4 comments

  1. Heh, I started thinking about videogames when they mentioned ‘levels.’ Funnily enough, some of the funniest stuff in videogames happens when the physics or AI goes wrong, leading to hilariously inappropriate behaviour from the gameworld.

    I played Red Dead Redemption at a friend’s house the other week and about 30 seconds after I appeared at the train station I walked out into the desert and some cowboy guy came plummeting straight down out of the sky and landed in front of me in a ragdoll heap. I don’t think I’d be as interested in the game if everything worked perfectly.

    Anyway, I agree with your proposition; developers should try freeing themselves from realism and embrace the possibilities of glorious, humorous chaos.

  2. What would be great is if a game started out in a recognisable reality and got progressively more warped as the game went on. So you’d get daft things like people falling from the sky, but it’d be deliberate. I really liked the idea of the dream world collapsing around those in it, and that’d be a great way of adding an extra layer of tension to a videogame level.

  3. I think one of the reasons why developers don’t (to simplify things somewhat) take on board the influences they ought to is that they don’t necessarily consume as much media as we think. I remember when PC Gamer used to ask developers what games they’d played recently, and almost invariably they’d be so busy they hadn’t played anything that had been released in the previous three or so years, that always struck me as fascinating and mildly worrying.

    As for Inception, I’ve not seen it yet but I can’t wait to, it looks to have the mixture of excitement and intelligence my favourite films always have. From a Inception virgin’s point of view, I fear that if developers were to be inspired by it, they would likely focus on the shallower aesthetic aspects of it you mention. Games were inspired by The Matrix, but only on a very aesthetic level… I’ve not knowingly spotted any Baudrillard references in games, personally!

  4. Of course on thinking about it, some would say they’d seen no references in The Matrix either, but my point still stands 😉


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