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Hollywood Directorial Styles We’d Like To See In Games

by Jason Dafnis on Oct 09, 2014 at 09:35 AM

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As games further rise in popularity, they will continue to bleed into other entertainment media. Games have been adapted to movies, and movie directors have tried their hand at game direction with varying degrees of success. Instead of the actual directors, we’d like to see their styles adapted to games by someone with more experience in the medium. Styles like these could make for great games – or more.

Martin Scorsese’s Unrelenting Grit

Anybody who’s seen Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, or The Departed knows where I’m going with this one. While Martin Scorsese’s directorial style has changed over the years, an undercurrent of liberal, jarring violence and profuse profanity runs through his films’ veins. His style doesn’t glorify violence – rather, it realizes it, using the violence to create shocking plot turns as his films barrel to the climax and conclusion.

A lot of games could use a hand like Scorsese’s to detach them from oft-predictable arcs and resolutions. It might be hard to hit the right balance (after all, a movie’s two-hours-and-change runtime is a different format entirely from a game’s six-to-ten-hour story), but if someone could, it would leave a pretty big mark in games.

Series We’d Like To See It In:

Sleeping Dogs, Red Dead Redemption

Imagine a Sleeping Dogs sequel with the realism and intensity of Gangs of New York, or Red Dead Redemption’s hard-to-swallow story infused with Scorsese’s mastery of the true crime genre. Neither series is afraid of controversy or violence, and could both accept the style with open arms.

Bryan Fuller’s Lightning Absurdity

Bryan Fuller has actually never directed a film, so his inclusion in this list might stretch it a little bit. But go watch any of his TV series – including Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, his episodes of Heroes, or the excellent Hannibal – and tell me it wouldn’t be great to see some of that creativity and energy in a video game.

Fuller’s style takes each project to heart, meticulously crafting and timing every moment without wasting a single second. Rapid-fire dialogue, memorable visual design, “It’s not for everyone” humor, and some of network TV’s most twisted storylines are a sure-fire combo for a densely packed, story-driven game.

Series We’d Like To See It In:

Resident Evil, American McGee’s Alice

Bryan Fuller’s darker work would make the perfect basis for the future of Resident Evil – plenty of creepiness, dead people, and action, wrapped in an entertaining presentation with a dash of cynical humor – and, combined with his tendency to reimagine existing properties, seems like a no-brainer for a hypothetical future Alice game.

Rian Johnson’s Uncomfortably Cool Minimalism

Remember Brick? How about Looper? Surely, you remember “Ozymandias,” one of the finale episodes of Breaking Bad (and considered by many the greatest episode of television ever aired). Rian Johnson is responsible for directing all of those and more (including the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VIII).

A mainstay of Johnson’s style is a kind of cool restraint, producing amazing scenes and indelible moments without dipping into excess. His storytelling style maintains the audience’s suspension of disbelief while giving us a healthy payoff with awesome character interaction and, occasionally, some spectacular action scenes. Some games need to scale things back to give more to the player. A game directed like a Rian Johnson movie would be the embodiment of that ethos.

Series We’d Like To See It In:

Half-Life, TimeSplitters

The near-future settings of both Half-Life and Looper go hand-in-hand, while the future of the sci-fi TimeSplitters series might be a lot better off if imbued with the style of the guy directing a future Star Wars movie.

[Next page: Dreams of the director of Drive doing Kingdom Hearts, Christopher Nolan tackling Assassin's Creed, and more]

Nicolas Winding Refn’s WTF

The director of Valhalla Rising, Drive, Only God Forgives, and some more of today’s prominent headscratcher cinema is the true wild card of this list. Audiences have only one expectation on their way to see a Refn film: They’ll have a lot of questions on the way out. The Danish auteur’s works raise a lot of eyebrows and questions, requiring a good bit of deliberation to uncover the meaning of what you’ve just seen.

I’m not quite sure how Refn’s style would play out in a video game, but that’s exactly why I want to see it in one. Some mainstream games are moving in the direction of interpretive endings and skewed themes (The Last of Us is a good example), which helps elevate those games into the realm of artistic thought and debate. A game that feels like a Nicolas Winding Refn movie could benefit game culture as a whole – and it could be pretty fun, too.

Series We’d Like To See It In:

Kingdom Hearts, Alan Wake

Kingdom Hearts already boasts one of the most confusing and far-flung mythoses in all of gaming, and Square Enix has shown no intent of making it easier to understand in future releases. Dark tones and metaphorical themes like those in Refn’s movies might actually fit in with Sora and his friends. Alan Wake is a tale of a man in a story within a story where reality is barely an influence, which already sounds like an interpretation of a Refn film.

Christopher Nolan’s Creative Composition

Christopher Nolan has a history of bringing characters to life through both sweeping stories and intimate moments. He’s got a touch for drawing audiences in with a great concept and wowing with excellent execution. Memento, Inception, The Prestige, and his Dark Knight trilogy are some of the strongest examples of his ability to juggle character development, scene composition, and an enthralling story.

Some game series get too caught up in context or confusing stories, losing the identity or complexity of their characters to an emphasis on action or setting. What those games need is a mediating force that knows how to balance concept and character – a Christopher Nolan-like touch.

Series We’d Like To See It In:

Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed

Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed both have roots in strong directorial vision, but both could use a little more story clarification and development. Uncharted occasionally falls into predictability and Assassin’s Creed’s extended series development has been handled by seven developers, resulting in varying quality of annualized releases – both series could be drastically different with a reimagining by someone like Nolan.

Edgar Wright’s Unabashed Fanboyism

It’s easy to imagine a game like an Edgar Wright movie – he did direct Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, after all – because many of his films contain the elements for a hit: a great cast, humor that’s actually funny, indulgent action scenes, and a distinct voice that ties most all of his works together.

He also wears his love of pop culture on his sleeve. It’s easy to miss all of the nods to video games in his adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim, but they’re handled in a way that adds context to the story and characters among which they’re sprinkled.

Series We’d Like To See It In:

Left 4 Dead, Saints Row

Once you get it in your mind, separating Edgar Wright’s style from those of Left 4 Dead or Saints Row is hard. All are packed with humor, ridiculous events, and their share of dead people – a focus on entertaining the audience, no wasted moments, and endless fun. Wright’s directorial style would fit right in.