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Video Game Designers Share Their Favorite Inspirational Movies

Favorite Inspirational Films

Video Game Designers Share Their Favorite Inspirational Movies

In the latest series of Five In Focus articles we ask a group of computer game designers to list the movies that have influenced them most in their work.

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Eric Zimmerman's Five Favorite Films
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Metropolis

At 5 years old, I experienced Metropolis in the pre-VCR ‘70s, on Super-8 borrowed from a public library. Its Early Modern version of the future, a tale of biblical proportions shot with unflinching invention, has haunted me ever since.

 

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The Muppet Movie

Jim Henson not only invented a new cultural form (the marionette/puppetry hybrid “Muppets”) but he pursued an aggressively Brechtian sensibility – if you don’t remember how outrageously metatextual it is, see the film again! At 10 years old, I cried for hours after experiencing The Muppet Movie’s sublime de- and re-mystification.

 

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A Clockwork Orange

A high school favorite, I loved how this scandalously taboo film toys with the viewer. You loathe Kubrick’s amoral Alex, only to pity him when the state remaps his psyche, but then question your own sympathy when his true nature rises again. That degree of emotional interactivity tickles my game designer’s fancy.

 

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Le Mystère Picasso

This little-known documentary consists primarily of Picasso rapidly painting canvases in real-time. When I saw it as an art student, the raw voyeurism of Picasso’s process was transfixing: as in a game, choice layered on choice begets meaning.

 

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The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover

Every game designer is a closet structuralist, and this film unfolds like a mechanistic symphony. Perverse moral fable + sumptuous aesthetics = fabulous viewing.

 

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Eric Zimmerman
Eric Zimmerman

Eric Zimmerman

Eric Zimmerman is a game designer, writer and academic who has been working in the game industry for more than 16 years. He founded Gamelab, an independent game studio based in NYC, and has helped create numerous games (on and off the computer) including Gamelab’s hit title Diner Dash, the pioneering web game SiSSYFiGHT 2000, and the MacArthur grant-funded Gamestar Mechanic. The co-founder of Gamelab’s nonprofit spin-off The Institute of Play, Zimmerman also co-authored Rules of Play with Katie Salen. He has taught at MIT, NYU, SVA, and Parsons School of Design, and is on the faculty at the NYU Game Center. He currently works with NYC companies like Fresh Planet and Curious Pictures, designs large-scale physical game installations with architect Nathalie Pozzi and creates experimental games with game collectives The Leisure Society and Local No.12. His first film, Play – a collaboration with director David Kaplan – premiered in spring 2010. For more, go to Eric Zimmeman’s official website.

Zimmerman, one of the most respected figures within game design, below offers up his thoughts on the five films that have most impacted on his thinking about his work.


Eric Zimmerman: In comparing games with cinema, the closest genre of film is probably porn: the predictable patterning and deeply non-narrative pleasures in both games and sex films make for strong repeat play.

But in thinking about the films that impacted me most, I found a common pattern in works that reached beyond simple representation to call attention to their own construction. As console games continue to chase the spectacle of cinema, it is instructive to consider non-visual vectors of film that can influence games. So here, minus some close seconds (La Jetée, Koyaanisquatsi, True Stories, Memento) are my picks:

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