Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!
Matt’s confession in last week’s post about the scores of digital characters killed in his gaming career so far made me wonder about why I had never become a gamer myself. It wasn’t that video and computer games weren’t available in the late ’80s and ’90s (friends of our family were GameBoy addicts, for example) or that our family were somehow technological hermits (my grandfather had introduced us to his AMIGA Commodore by 1987 – game discs included). I also got off to a good start when our parents bought us a brand new computer for Christmas in 1994 and I was able to get my hands on fresh gaming content.
I do suspect, however, that this is were the problem began: the game I most played at the time was Indy 3 (or, more completely, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), a point-and-click adventure released by Lucasfilm Games in 1989. It was good fun to begin with: a litte man in a brown hat and leather jacket and equipped with a gun and a whip had to leave his university office to travel to Venice (“Ah Venice!”) in order to find an “X that marks the spot” in quite a beautiful Venetian library. On he went to a rat-infested cellar filled with skulls, a grim-looking Nazi castle, and on from there (I don’t think I made it much further), chasing what was apparently the Holy Grail itself, a cup that promised eternal life and that the game’s baddies were after.
I did enjoy playing Indy 3, even though it took me admittedly very long to find the Xs that marked the spots, and I did noticeably enjoy the music that was playing in the background, however tinny it sounded. Nonetheless, things were about to change dramatically, and I do suspect that this is the reason why Indy 3 single-handedly started and ended my gaming career: I found out there was a movie that the game was based on, and once I started watching it, I felt I never wanted to go back to the pixelated images and the tinny music: I fell in love with the movie instead!
Suddenly, the trip to Venice was a fun romp with true John Williams soundtrack panache, the city looked picturesque and real, and the search for the X that marks the spot was terribly suspenseful. Most of all, however, Harrison Ford’s Indy and his father (Sean Connery in one of his greatest parts) shared so much screen chemistry that I was thoroughly amused. By the end of the film (and yes, I did make it to the end without failure!), I must have thought: why punish myself with the game in the future if you can have such a grand movie experience instead? I have never looked back since.
I realise of course what I’ve missed: movie tie-in games of all kinds could have expanded my perspectives on the films themselves (as an ardent Bond fan, I must have missed some of the most popular games of all time, including GoldenEye), computer graphics have dramatically changed in the meantime, and some games are probably now on par with the visual and sound experience of a movie. With entire narrative scenes now featured in games and with hybrid forms between game and cinema on the horizon, I might have to re-evaluate my stance in the future, but I think that is the reason why I continue to be an utter movie geek, solely focused on the passive art of movie appreciation and the very active art of movie dissection, most recently through our podcasts.
I did try my hand at movie making and would love to go back to it one day, but I do think Indy 3 might have single-handedly put me off gaming altogether!