Games and movies may be two different genres of entertainment, but they bear similarities that create links between the two. While they’re both highly visual forms of entertainment, video games involve interaction with the game, and you’re an active participant instead of passively watching a screen. Storytelling is a big part of both, so much so that movie makers have transformed some gaming titles into films. And video gaming relies on advanced technology to be interactive and realistic; movie makers have incorporated video gaming technology into their productions to achieve greater visuals, realism, and other effects.
Video games are exciting to play and can create moments of tension for the player. Will they make it to the end of the level? Or will they have to start all over again? Other kinds of gaming are just as exciting, as players invest time into winning, which creates a kind of ‘stake.’ This kind of tension is something that film makers have picked up on, and that has enabled to create moments of high drama or excitement for audiences.
Let’s take a look at a few scenes featuring gaming!
1. Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey
Pete Hewitt’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey is the second movie in the Bill & Ted film series, which began in 1989 with Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the story of two teenagers who just want their band to succeed, but end up having an entire Utopian society from the year 2688 built around their music. In Bogus Journey, said Utopian society sends two robots who look exactly like our favorite rockstars back to the past to kill Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves), as he wants the universe to revolve around “his ideas, and his ideas alone!” instead.
A big chunk of the film consists of our two cool dudes facing the Grim Reaper (William Sadler), and they even play a game against him in the afterlife to save their souls. Bill and Ted aren’t too bright and aren’t too good at the game, so they play against Death in a game that’s are more up their street: Battleship. Unfortunately, Death doesn’t like to lose and demands they play more. Bill and Ted end up beating him at Clue, Electric Football and Twister before realizing the only way they’re ever going to escape is by doing something that’s more in their style instead. We’ll leave it to you to find out what it is.
Ron Howard’s 1985 sci-fi comedy Cocoon tells the story of three residents of a retirement community in Florida named Ben (Wilford Brimley), Art (Don Ameche), and Joe (Hume Cronyn). Our seniors have been secretly using the swimming pool of the building next door, but they aren’t the only ones. 10,000 years before, twenty peaceful aliens had found refuge on Earth when their home, Atlantis, sank, by placing themselves inside the titular cocoons to stay alive. Later, other aliens came to rescue them, disguising themselves as humans and renting a house with a swimming pool, which they filled with “life force” that would make their weaker friends stronger for the journey back home. So, when our three protagonists think they’re just having a swim, they’re actually absorbing said life force and becoming younger. Of course, humans and aliens eventually meet, and chaos ensues.
Cocoon is an uplifting movie, and the bingo scene is a charming moment where the seniors simply enjoy playing the game. If you’re wondering how to play bingo, you can pick up some useful tips just by observing this scene. And if you like Ron Howard’s movies, you won’t be disappointed by this 1985 gem, which will surprise you in all the right ways.
Wargames (1983) is another classic, this time from director John Badham. It features a young Matthew Broderick as a high school student and expert hacker that accidentally gains access to a NORAD supercomputer and the USA’s nuclear arsenal. The scenes featuring the supercomputer aren’t the only ones in which audiences see David Lightman (Broderick) playing games. In one scene, inside an arcade, the camera pans around the establishment, capturing several SEGA titles before stopping on Lightman playing Galaga.
4. The Thing
The original epic chiller by John Carpenter revolves around the titular “thing”: a shape-shifting alien that can become whoever it wants, and even impersonate its victims. In this 1982 classic, our terrifying villain hunts a research team in Antarctica led by researcher R.J. Macready (Kurt Russell). And our protagonist is stoic, but, as the audience learns, he doesn’t like to lose, not even if his opponent is a computer against which he plays chess. The scene illustrates this important aspect of Macready’s character by showing him tipping a glass of scotch over the keyboard of the computer. The computer then sparks and malfunctions.
5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
John Hughes’ (The Breakfast Club) 1986 classic revolves entirely around a popular high school student named Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) who tries to do just what the title suggests: take a day off from school. But things don’t prove to be, so easy, as the school principal is determined to stop him. And Principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) thinks he has caught the frequent truant red handed when he approaches a youngster playing a martial arts video game in an arcade. He delivers his victorious ‘I’ve caught you’-style speech to “Ferris,” who has “his” back turned to the principal. To Rooney’s horror, however, the “young man” in question is a woman who doesn’t appreciate the speech, and hilarity ensues.
Whether movies revolve around them or they’re just an event that lasts a few minutes, gaming scenes in movies serve to engage audiences. They can be a great source of comic relief or add the familiarity of dynamics you recognize; they can even tell you something about whoever’s playing, as games can also reveal something about someone’s personality. Gaming features in various movies; in other cases, it’s gaming technology that has helped creators make films. Whatever the case may be, an entertaining movie is often the result.