Silver Screen, Gold Disc

Silver Screen, Gold Disc
The Sincerest Form of Imitation

Kieron Gillen | 23 Jan 2007 11:01
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Blade Runner
Put it like this: Blade Runner invented the future. While others' view of the future is clear fantasy, as Ridley Scott's world unveils in front of us, there's a nagging worry that we may end up living there. Clearly, Blade Runner is a film that has had huge cultural impact on how everyone portrays the day after tomorrow.

Star Wars
If we were looking across the whole life of videogames, it's arguable that Star Wars would be the single most influential movie in the industry's history. Its release in 1977 provided inspiration in everything from high level ideas like game types (Space Invaders was created in 1978. Space remained the natural adventure-playground for games for years afterward) to the base implementation (even if videogame tech could have made more realistic noises, with Star Wars influence, it's entirely possible they'd still have applied an exciting and iconic array of bleeps). A virtual sub-industry has been created around the Star Wars franchise, and when a developer wishes to present an enormous space battle, he's thinking of matching what Lucas managed.

Ironically, while Alien was the original, it's Aliens where the majority of developers go when their creative well runs dry. For example, Giger's original design for the body-horror, genitalia-phobic organic alien has inspired anyone who sat down to work out something icky to shoot, but the implementation in games owes more to Aliens. An alien's lifecycle is too iconic to take without being too obvious, but the more generalized egg-laying queen has been used time and time over. Any alien race, if they're not taking from the "Grays" of urban folklore, is more often than not Giger-derived.

But that isn't even the primary influence. Instead, the movie's Colonial Marines provide the backbone for everything from Halo to Command & Conquer's view of the future. Where in even the dirtiest parts of the Star Wars universe are elements of romance, the Colonial Marines take their own visual cues from a post-Vietnam military with its array of firepower, gung-ho slogans and omnipresent wise-cracks. The Colonial Marine's weaponry provides the backbone of most shooters. Hell, if they managed to cram a mini-gun into the movie, they'd have a majority shareholding in weapons stocks in any given shooter.

It goes on an on, and watching Aliens can feel like an advertising video for game hardware. The drop-ship design specifically is borrowed whenever an orbital landing is called for. Actually pre-empting Full Metal Jacket, the easy, brutal camaraderie is reprised time and time over. Developers make use of the Marines' hand-scanners, which chirped faster the closer the enemy way, to build tension. The specific design of the armor, all clasps and hard edges, shows up everywhere. Even the use of dropped flares as a cliffhanger comes from Aliens. The billowing smoke and blue light that director James Cameron fills the corridors with are modern games' default atmosphere.

If we removed Aliens from existence, the list of games left without a premise could have filled this article. To badly paraphrase Voltaire: If Aliens didn't exist, someone would have had to invent it. And really, that would just be too much work, wouldn't it?

Kieron Gillen has been writing about videogames for far too long now. His rock and roll dream is to form an Electro-band with Miss Kittin and SHODAN pairing up on vocals.

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