Looking back now, it is easy to understand the appeal of the stand alone blockbuster of 2010, Inception. Christopher Nolan”s impressive feature film had action, beautiful violence on the one hand, and on the other cleverly utilised dreamworlds and the subconscious, rendering both with cinematographic aplomb. However despite looking and sounding incredible I couldn”t help but wonder why this film was even made as a film at all.
There may be spoilers ahead, none too many but still maybe give this a miss if you haven”t seen it and are planning on doing so.
Though clearly a well made film, that is as stunning as it is complex, Inception failed to ignite my passion once the credits started to roll. Even during its comfortable 2 hour running time, it did nothing to immerse me within the filmic world – dreams are of course central to the film and as
such it was presented as unreal – failing to implicate itself beyond the cinematic space. Great films use cinema to affect you, evoke and produce feelings within you, outside of the screen – Inception instead merely toyed with notions of cinema to off foot the audience in a playful manner – Ariadne”s first dream experience for example, plays with the seamless cut to suggest what is taking place is reality, when it is in fact a dream. Because you are used to certain conventions, reality and the dream-world are blurred, but only ever during the film. Which is fine, but the fantastic script really demanded more. I would like to suggest that at its heart the script is really suited to being made into a video game.
Now admittedly this video game would have to be one with a lot more ambition than most casual gamers would be used to. But it is has long been recognised by those submerged in video games that the experienced offered by this latest form of entertainment far surpasses cinema – and not only economically. If you don”t believe me, try picking up the original Dead Space and play it alone, in a darkened room. I am yet to find a a horror film I couldn”t cope with alone. And this isn”t a stand alone title – another important example is Red Dead Redemption which I couldn”t put down for weeks, despite spending most of my time just riding a horse to nowhere so I could skin some animals. Hell I”m even tempted to watch the computer play itself on Fifa if the next football match is unbearably far away. Its an immersive medium, able to do more to the player, far cheaper than is possible with film, and importantly can be shared on a much grander scale.
So here are a few key features of what you could have expected with Inception: The Game.
Possibly the online casino most memorable game for breaking the boundaries of the medium was the gamecube”s Eternal Darkness. Despite the rather convoluted story, and odd game mechanics, the resident evil clone did one thing well which made it a must play: madness. With the inclusion of an “insanity meter”, the game placed the players inside the mind of the protagonist, and as she was subjected to more horrors, she would lose her sanity and weird things would start to happen that would affect you in the realworld – characters would lose their heads, controls would flip, and I especially remember trying to brush off flies from the TV screen as the game toyed with medium”s specificity. With Inception, these effects could be expounded – much like the paradox staircase. Cheap cinematic tricks would be replaced by nuanced complexities seeping into your own reality – coaxing you to question what was real.
One scene which looked particularly impressive in the film, were the hotel corridors, as (inside the dream of another being moved around) they twisted and turned with gravity shifting direction. Even in these moments you are left in awe, but much of your mind is taken up trying to consider how these effects were achieved – a herculean effort no doubt – when they should be firmly attached to the story. In a game, there would be no question of how this effect would be achieved, and though it shouldn”t be a factor, these scenes would be a lot cheaper to produce in a video game, without losing much of its effect – in fact if anything, the disorientation would be far more effective; far from simply being a spectacle, these moments would become far more integral to the gameplay, and thus the experience of its audience. You could even have elements respond to you – as you ran through the vast mazes, you could change or create elements on the fly.
Much is lost in modern cinema with the invention of the home cinema system and online streaming services. Cinema is about the shared experience of the silver screen, as a whole host of strangers are transported into the film. The problem is far less apparent in video games, having been built around the notion of group enjoyment from even their earliest days. As technology has progressed, the multiplayer aspect of video games has been pushed into online spheres – shared spaces that are no longer limited to two or three friends sat in your living room, but can cope with almost hundreds of gamers at once, connected on screen and communicating through headsets. This is where the real magic of an Inception game franchise could take hold – conceptually based on the shared dreaming experience, gamers could form teams with friends or attempt whole hosts of heists with strangers, splintering off into the different layers of dreaming, with some taking the driving while others battled through missions, which would change depending on actions occuring elsewhere. Even better, this could be another layer of trickery – the big twist being that what you do in each section wouldn”t actually affect things, but you believed they would.
These are just a few of the elements that could take place – but the chance to grow your own character, start off as an architect, build whole dream worlds, even sneak into the dreams of
others. Of course, the problem with video games is that their grand ambition is often curtailed by deadlines, both technical and financial, but I put it to you that the possibilities of an Inception game far outweigh the simple possibilities that the film makers exploited.
Richard “Hitch” Hanrahan