Monday, March 1, 2010

Attack on Gamer

Gamer is probably the best video game movie ever made. (so far) Why? Because it's not based on a video game. It has elements from games and also plays on society's interest and fear of total control. Yet it is not entirely original either.

WARNING! This text review WILL contain spoilers.

In Gamer, technology has advanced so that people can participate in online social and war games not by controlling digital avatars but by controlling living breathing people. Players can make these people do anything that they want. The inventer of the tech and the "games," Ken Castle, has become the richest man in the world. Thousands if not millions of people play his "games"

The two games he has produced are a social sim called Society and a brutal shooter called Slayers. In Society, people control the actions of their "avatars" in whatever sick and twisted ways they desire. They can force these people to rave, take drugs, imbibe alcohol, and even have sex against their will. The "avatars" while in the "game" have no control over their actions - total control is given to the "players" at what I can only expect is quite a sum of money. Total control is achieved with nanites which replace the "avatar's" brain cells and give the "players" a direct link through an IP address. Much like a computer that connects with the internet today. Frankly this sounds very much like SOP (Son's of the Patriots) from Metal Gear Solid 4, but I digress. While in control over the "avatars" the "players" can customize their appearance; which includes: outfits, hair, make-up, accessories, and anything else. Let me just say that these "players" are sick.

Slayers is more recent. In this game, "players" control death row inmates in a game akin to most shooters of today ( ie Army of Two, Gears of War, etc.) where they control and kill living beings using a traditional third person camera. In this "game" the "players" control these convicts for their freedom. IF the convicts can survive 30 matches, they will be freed from their sentence. "Players" can purchase upgrades for their "avatars" such as new weapons and body armor to ensure that their "avatar" survives. But when it comes down to it, its up to the "players" to ensure their "avatar" lives. One such "player" is Simon who controls the "avatar" Kable. Together they are only a few matches away from freedom. It turns out that "Kable" was framed so to speak, and is getting much further than Castle expected. Castle decides to kill Kable by any means necessary.

Not everyone is content with the Control developed by Ken Castle, in fact, there is a resistance cell calling themselves Humanz who are attempting to spread the truth about Castle's Control. Other characters include a talkshow host who is at first skeptical but realizes the truth and decides to help. Wait a minute...

A futuristic world, where convicts play in a game to win their freedom, yet the entire truth is kept from the public, and the one man who may win was framed. The creator of the game wants to kill that man just at the finish line, and there is a resistance group trying to go public with the truth and person working in television helps out. There's just something familiar about this plot. There's another story almost just like that. What was it? >cough< The Running Man.

That's right. Gamer is in fact an updated version of The Running Man which was originally written by Steven King under a pseudonym. The Running Man, for those who don't know, was about a man who was a helicopter pilot sent to prison for the massacre of innocent civilians, which he was framed of. After escaping, he runs into a woman who works in television, who believes the false charges. He is captured again, but this time is given the opportunity to participate in the world's most popular game show called The Running Man - which has criminals running through a maze in an abandoned city while being pursued and promising their freedom upon winning. During his run, he is chased by Stalkers who are trying to kill him and his fellow "contestants" which includes his friends from prison and the woman. They all know that he is innocent, and there is even a resistance group which is trying to show that the media is hiding the truth from the public. When it becomes evident that Ben Richards - the running man, is going to win, the media fake his death. However, Richards, manages to fight his way and confront the media and the creator of the game show, Killian, all the while exposing the truth about his so called crime and what the media has been doing.

Lets juxtapose this with Gamer. Kable - real name Tillman, was part of the early experiments of Castle's nanex control system. Castle controlled Tillman into killing someone, which gave Tillman a spot on death row. Castle then creates a game that grants prisoners their freedom if they win. Tillman does surprisingly well, and Castle sends in people specifically to kill him. A television hostess gets thrown into the fray when she decides to help Tillman and the resistance who are attempting to uncover Castles plot to control the entire world with his nanites. Along the way, they uncover the truth about Tillman's "crime", but not after Castle fakes Tillman's death when he was just seconds away from freedom. Tillman fights his way into Castle's HQ and confronts him, and with the help of the Hostess, reveals the truth to the world. Gamer, like The Running Man, ends with our hero killing the creator and freeing everyone from his control.

There are a few points in Gamer not from The Running Man, such as: the hero having a family on the outside which he is desperately trying to get to. And the whole Take over the world thing (of course) - in The Running Man, the world is already controlled by the media. Also the nanite control thing, which as I said, is more akin to Metal Gear. But it would make sense to get some inspiration from action shooter games. The use of save points, and an awesome heads up display for the "players" gives a sense of a real game that one might play. However, in this game you only get one life. (man that would have been a good tag line for this movie) It's mine now, you can't take it.

Visually, this movie is amazing. Society has bright high chroma colors and gives the feeling of a pop-style game, yet in Slayers the colors are muted, much more subdued and gritty, which really works for shooter games. High-tech and current tech weapons and equipment ad to the feel, as well as the customization of the "avatars"

This movie delves into the disturbing hobbies of gamers, and as a gamer myself, I am sad to say that there are people out their like that. I REALLY wanted the fat guy to get killed. I try to imagine that he did, what with the death squad showing up at his apartment.

Unlike The Running Man, Gamer shows a much more utopian future, but with the same problems. All in all, both movies are amazing, and culturally relevant to the times at which they were released. The Running Man, came at a time where game shows were king and everyone wanted the next awesome show with out-of-this-world gimmicks and outrageous contestants. Gamer was appropriate for its time due to the recent boom in video games.

But I think that both stem from the ideas introduced in one literary classic. That being, George Orwell's 1984. In which a utopian society is ruled by a totalitarian government by way of mass fear and constant monitoring. Everyone is constantly being watched by "Big Brother" and we must all think happy thoughts, or else we will disappear. FOUR FINGERS!

Anyway before I ramble on too long (too late) I must say that Gamer is an excellent retelling of an already great movie. It is The Running Man of this generation.

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