I’m beginning to think I have some Alan-Wake-style ability to write reality into being. A while back I wrote a feature on film directors who should be making games. One of them was Studio Ghibli head Hayao Maiazaki, and now Ghibli is working on RPG Ni No Kuni for the DS and PS3. Another was Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade II, Chronos and Hellboy director Guillermo Del Toro. And he’s just announced that he’ll imminently reveal ‘a big deal with a big company’ to make games. His own. Original ones. Next up, I’m going to write a list feature about games journalists who should find offensively large piles of money on their doorsteps.
Now in the past I’ve expressed the opinion that artists from other media getting involved in games isn’t necessarily beneficial to anyone. Games are a very specific medium requiring very specific skills and very specific methods of storytelling in order to achieve greatness, and game devs themselves are only really now beginning to discover and make that stuff work artistically. But in Del Toro’s case, I am very excited. Del Toro, you see, is different. To explain my giddy, childlike mental state, I have compiled a list of reasons he will make very special video games. Onwards, friends. Onwards to cross-media victory!
This is true. Del Toro is one of us. He’s a gamer, a comic book reader, and a huge fan of fantastical media of every type and era. This will be no mere vanity trip for him, no simple attempt to broaden his CV and massage his ego my having his name on some credits in a different medium. He’s repeatedly proclaimed the increasing sophistication and power of games as a unique storytelling medium – one of the new non-industry types to really get it – so him bringing his already vast narrative and visual skill set to games will be a genuinely beneficial and enriching thing.
These won’t just be genero-games with a few Del Toro character designs. He lists amongst his favourite games ICO, Shadow of the Colossus, BioShock, and Silent Hill. This man knows what he's talking about. He understands the mechanics of the medium, and as a passionate gamer himself, he won’t stand for no crap.
When it comes to creating fantastic, unique, nightmarish and beautiful worlds, Del Toro is pretty much unbeated. It’s not just the look and ambience of the places he creates in his films. It’s the reality, cohesion and attention to detail he adds to them. Anyone can design a crazy-looking place, but to make one feel like a living, breathing, functioning reality takes an extra level of love and skill.
Look at Pan’s Labyrinth, or Hellboy, or even Del Toro’s more reality-grounded films such as Blade II and Chronos. They’re all visually stunning and utterly spellbinding, but much more than that, they all treat their fantastical inhabitants as real people, with real feelings and motivations, and believable, functioning societies. One of the biggest challenges in games is to take a world beyond its visuals and game mechanics and make it actually feel alive, and even the best games don’t always pull it off. Del Toro however, would. He’d insist on it. And discussing this point leads us on to the fact that…
Not just in a ‘Wow, monsters are so cool’ kind of way. Del Toro really, genuinely empathises with and cares about the creatures in his films. They’re the most sympathetic characters, full of pathos and motivation and emotional subtlety, and are always the ones that stick with you long after the film ends, whether protagonist or not. For all his rampant murdering, Blade II’s Novak was the guy you felt for the most by the end. Jesus, the artificial vampire of Del Toro’s debut feature Cronos, might have degenerated from kindly grandfather to ravenous blood drinker, but at no point along the way did he elicit anything other than genuine, human sympathy.
Above: Del Toro and monsters = BFF
In games, this thinking will be dynamite. Playing as a Del Toro monster along a layered emotional journey would be great, but even better would be to encounter these creatures and their world as an outsider, and then really come to understand them. Whether friend or enemy, the monsters in a Del Toro game will be far from simple gun fodder. Whether working with them or killing them en masse, every interaction with them will matter and resonate. And if he brings long-time collaborator Doug 'Abe Sapien' Jones along for motion capture, then all the better.
If Del Toro can squeeze the mighty Ron Perlman into a film, he will. He’s the hulking Johnny Depp to Del Toro’s tubby Tim Burton, and given that he’s no stranger to games himself (having appeared in every Fallout game, Halo 2 and 3, The Chronicles of Riddick and an absolute shedload more) there’s almost no chance he won’t turn up in Del Toro’s games.
Ron Perlman is awesome. Ron Perlman needs to be in as many things as possible.
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