Thursday, December 5, 2013

Game Lessons Learned from the Films of 2013

Poster for Short Term 12
My latest PopMatters article is now live: Game Lessons Learned from the Films of 2013.

As someone whose live is heavily dominated by games, I tend to think about them even when I don't plant to. Sometimes I'm sitting there in the movie theater thinking "Wow. Keanu could definitely take over for Nolan North in an Uncharted spin-off." Alright, maybe we can't take too many lessons from A Walk in the Clouds. Still, movies matter to games, and vice versa. We can learn a lot from storytelling across mediums, and every year I find a handful of movies that resonate with me not just as excellent cinematic works, but as spotlights on ways games can experiment and explore certain themes or styles. This piece is my exploration of five such films that came out this year, some of which are viewable right now, either in theater or online.

Since we are already on the subject of movies, why not talk about a few more of my favorites from this year. Of my list five films, only two make it into my personal list of Top 5 films I have seen so far this year. To this personal ranking, I would add the nearly perfect Blue Jasmine. Woody Allen's latest is amazing, a funny albeit deeply depressing and unrelenting story.

Nearly every character in the film is despicable in one way or another, particularly the men. Unfortunately the two sisters leading the film have their personal self-identities so entwined with the men in their lives that they are incapable of escaping their implosive destinies. Blue Jasmine is an excellent look at the perils of gender identity and compromised agency. Good times! I almost put it on my PopMatters list, but felt Frances Ha covered some of the same ground well enough.

I was also struck this year by Destin Cretton's Short Term 12, about a few staff members at a foster care home for trouble youth. Director and writer, Cretton based a lot of the script on his own experiences working at a foster care facility. The film itself is touching, intimate, and extremely hopeful. In fact, it reminded me a lot of Gone Home, which approaches its subject matter with the same level of care and affection. Both experiences feel personal, in both the drama and the warmth. Like Blue Jasmine, I also wanted to put it on my list. Ultimately, I thought both Frances Ha and The Stories We Tell covers the intimate approach to storytelling. There are also a growing number of games, Dys4ia to Gone Home, that have figured what many filmmakers already do: good storytelling comes in many forms.

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