Ghostbusters: the Harold Ramis interview

GR: Do you think a successful game could spur things on a bit for the third film?

HR: Well, here we are 25 years downstream. Part of me never wants to look back, as gratifying as that can be. The last thing you want to do is start thinking of yourself as some kind of legend. There’s nothing you’ve done in the past that says anything about your immediate future. I don’t care how beloved some of these movies are, when people walk into a theater this summer to see Year One, it’s a brand new game as soon as the lights go down. The past is irrelevant.

It’s never been my instinct to say, “Oh, we have to do another Ghostbusters or we need to do an Animal House sequel.” These things come up all the time. Last winter I got a call asking if I wanted to work on a “Stripes” television series. You know? Maybe it would be good, maybe not. I don’t know if it’d be good for me to go back to Stripes. But Ghostbusters is different because it was such a cultural phenomenon, and unlike those other movies, it created a whole new world. And people seem like they want to revisit them. It’s the most frequently asked question no matter what I’m talking about, “Is there going to be a Ghostbusters 3?” So the game is the icebreaker for the film.

GR: What are your thoughts on the Hollywood talent gravitating towards videogames today?

HR: David Cross plays an important role in my new film and when I told him I was going to record voice for the new Ghostbusters videogame, he said he was in Halo 2. I thought that’s totally cool. David Cross is more than a cult favorite. He’s a big-time comedian and he’s very hip. I thought this is an interesting new arena that’s obviously attracting new people.

GR: What are the challenges of making a videogame funny, especially given the repetitive nature of gaming?

HR: You would think comedy dies with repetition. Once you’ve heard a joke, you’re not going to laugh the second time. And yet people keep revisiting their favorite funny films that they see over and over again. I hear this all the time, usually from unhappy wives who will tell me their husband has watched Caddyshack 100 times and they say it with a worried look on their face. Why do people keep watching Ghostbusters or any comedy film? It’s not for the surprise. It’s something that tickles them deep down and makes them feel good. Maybe there’s lots of subliminal social or psychological messaging. Maybe it’s empowering? Maybe it’s more fun than dwelling in their real lives? I don’t know.

In videogames, it seems like the attraction of playing any videogame is that it gives you control over a world that you have no other access to. I read something interesting about the psychology of videogames and why they’re addicting. It’s about the learning curve. Gamers are happiest and most excited on the up side of the learning curve. Once you’ve mastered a game, you kind of lose interest. Repetition in a game, you’re not only dealing with the repetition of the comedy, but you’re dealing with the repetition of the gamers mastering the game, itself. To make a game so funny with so many comic alternatives, that would be like writing three hit movies. The scripts are impossibly long. That would be a considerable investment. And I was thinking if you wrote that much comedy, chances are you would put it in a feature film.

GR: How have you seen videogames influence Hollywood?

HR: Games are best when they simulate experiences that you can’t otherwise have. That’s why the first-person shooter games are so popular. Now that we’ve confused the morality of games with Grand Theft Auto and the bad guy games – a lot of people love to be bad guys, or the good bad guys. I think the violent games and action games, which are usually one and the same, maybe they’ve raised the bar for what we see in action films now. Videogames feel like you’re in an action movie and movies feel like they’re videogames.

GR: And of course Hollywood is making every videogame into a movie today.

HR: Yeah, when I saw the last Indiana Jones I thought, “they might as well just hand me a controller.”

Jun 16, 2009

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