I recently chatted with Duncan Jones, director of Moon and the upcoming Source Code, and the talk eventually turned to video games. I knew that Duncan was a pretty big game nerd, and he prides himself on being a serious, hardcore gamer.
“I’m very cynical of the number of directors who say they’re actual gamers,” Jones told me. “When you meet a lot of them in person, they’re not really gamers. I’m a real gamer and I think there are less real gamers involved in directing only because you have to spend so much time making films that there’s no time to be a hardcore gamer. I’m just slightly insane and I stay up all night playing games. In the day I’m working and at night I play games.”
All that game playing makes Jones a unique person to ask about the future of video game movies. It seems like there hasn’t been a single video game adaptation that has worked in the way that novel or comic book or even TV show adaptations have worked. With over twenty years of tries, nobody seems to have actually gotten it right. I asked him if he thought it was hopeless - if video games just wouldn’t make good movies - or if he thought it could yet be done.
“I think we’re waiting for the right project,” he said. “I really believe it. I definitely think there is an intangible aspect of video games in the interactivity that a film is never going to capture. But that is not what a game adaptation needs to be. A good game adaptation is where you find the story or the emotional aspect that’s at the heart of a computer game and you replicate that on film. It doesn’t mean you need to have first person perspective or try and capture the mechanics of a game. If you’re going to make a film of a game it’s got to be about the essence of why you, the audience, care what’s going on. There are certain games where that will work, and there are certain games where it doesn’t.”
And that right project? “I’m hugely jealous of Sam Raimi,” Jones told me. “I really believe World of Warcraft could be the launch of computer games as good films. And from the little I’ve read of interviews with him the way he’s approaching it makes so much sense. It’s what I was talking about - it’s not worrying about how the game plays, it’s about creating the world of the game and investing the audience in that world.”
The good news for Duncan is that Sam Raimi looks to have put World of Warcraft on the back burner for The Great and Mighty Oz; maybe now is the time when Jones can jump in and gets his mitts on Azeroth? I would certainly be happy to see what a real game nerd like Jones would do with that world. At least you know he wouldn’t make a movie about grinding.
As for what games Jones plays? He’s a PC gamer mostly, although he also has a PS3 and a Wii. As you can tell from his love of Warcraft he’s a bit of a Blizzard partisan. “I love everything Blizzard is doing. I can’t wait for Diablo 3. I played through Starcraft 2. I’ve been playing a lot of Call of Duty: Black Ops lately. I used to be involved with a clan back in Britain for Call of Duty.”