Box Office Games

Box Office Games
Satan, Bad Acting, and Dice

Adam Gauntlett | 8 Mar 2011 12:32
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Sex is a huge part of the film. A succession of women line up to corrupt Adam's innocence, presumably because his wooden acting and -2 Charisma bonus are massive turn-ons. This probably ties in with a recurring theme of Adam, Eve and the forbidden fruit, but really it's just an excuse for as many murders as possible in the time allotted. It's not entirely clear whether the women are innocent victims or fellow members of the Satanic conspiracy, but then few things are clear in Skullduggery. You could call it misogynist, trashy, exploitative and dull. It's all of those things, and also one of the oddest pieces of gaming cinema I have ever seen.

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It doesn't have what you'd call a plot. There's a medieval tabletop RPG framing device, with Adam being sent off on missions to level his warlock. This usually involves killings, which the oblivious authorities pass off as a heart attack epidemic. That description almost sounds like a story, but the on-screen action is essentially one extended murder scene after another, with no narrative justification beyond Adam! Sexy! Stabby! On with the show! It's unintentionally hilarious in places. I still get a laugh out of a scene in which a voluptuous, nameless nurse takes Adam back to her apartment; something gets spilled on his trousers and she washes it off, then strips to her undies and does the ironing while Adam hides behind his security blanket and stares at her like a demented Linus van Pelt. Frankly, Haverstock probably got cast as Adam thanks to that wacko stare. His acting certainly had nothing to do with it.

If Skullduggery was attempting to turn me away from gaming, it failed miserably. Not because its message was obscured by atrocious performances and a batshit crazy plot, but because it made gaming seem a lot cooler than it was. The game board they had at the beginning with the model figures and the castle at its heart was the kind of prop I could only dream of. The hallucinatory imagery, with naughts-and-crosses guy and the rest, only sealed the deal. To me, gaming meant gathering with my fellow nerds on the sports field each lunch hour at school. Nobody said cigar smoking apes and half naked nurses were involved, yet apparently they were. It was like playing tuba in the school band and suddenly discovering that all your fellow musicians were space aliens involved in some grand universe-shattering conspiracy, of which you were a part. Grand universe-shattering conspiracies? Since when do those need a tuba player?

But Skullduggery posed a bigger question: why make it at all? Stripped of its imagery it was just another roleplay rant with the gamer character once more taking center stage as an unwilling villain controlled by the forces of Evil. Adam gets no say; his every deed is ordered by the dungeon master, who in this instance is a stand-in for Old Nick himself. What purpose did Skullduggery serve?

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