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This! Is! Stupid!

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | August 17, 2009 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | August 17, 2009 |

A film about a video game in which the player controls real people sounds kind of dumb to start with, but might have some B-movie entertainment value. After reading an interview with the makers of the film (Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor) it is clear that assumption is hopelessly optimistic.

Via SciFi Wire: “We like to go to outer space sometimes, and when we’re in outer space, we bring lots of tequila, … we have fun.” I do not know what they are talking about. It’s almost like reading MadLibs. I’m open to the possibility that this was clever and funny in context and that the interview was just edited so that the quote doesn’t make sense, but then they declare that they don’t really play video games, and issue a short rant about how overly immersive and addictive video games can be. Oh that makes sense, 50 million gamers in the world, and the guys directing a film about video games are the ones who don’t actually play them, but they do remember that Fox News told them that Grand Theft Auto is a murder simulator. What? Was my grandma’s production slate full? (Note: it wasn’t. And my grandma bought me most of the video games I had as a teenager; it’s called hyperbole, let’s move on).

When asked if they thought the scenario depicted in the film might come about in the future, they insisted that it was possible, citing that this had already happened in porn. Right, because paying a webcam stripper $500 an hour so that you can IM her which nostril to shove the dildo into in real time is exactly the same thing as using mind control technology to make one guy shoot another guy in the head.

“The only thing holding this stuff back is ethics.” Who wants to break it to them that mind control technology doesn’t actually exist? And that even if it did, it would probably be illegal to use it to kill people? This is like saying that we shouldn’t have kitchen knives, because otherwise the only thing holding people back from filleting their children for dinner would be ethics. And really, who could resist?

Look, speculating about the dark side of technology is sci-fi bread and butter, but mindless nonsensical doom-mongering isn’t just lazy and stupid, it also commits the fatal sin of story-telling: it’s boring. Gerard Butler’s character is the number one avatar in Gamer and he’s killed 30 people in the game. According to my Xbox, I’ve killed 150 people in the two months I’ve played Fallout 3. In the world of Gamer, to support just a million players (a fraction of the World of Warcraft players out there), we’d need to have somewhere in the ballpark of 500 million prisoners dying every year. The horror of mind control is a rich vein of science fiction, and even the exploration of the role of video games in society can be a source of good stories, but constructing a fable premised on a societal sociopathy that makes Hitler look like a Smurf is simply not good storytelling.

Interviews with the director and writer are a great way for films that don’t at face value come across as original and interesting to persuade people that there is hidden depth. This film sounds so shitballs retarded at this point that the first screenings will turn audiences into actual zombies. If you must go to a theater the day this movie is released, please pack a shotgun and Woody Harrelson for your own safety.

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.