Neill Blomkamp is best known for his politically charged action movies, most notably District 9. He's currently serving as chief visionary officer (a title he admits is "a little unique") for Off The Grid, an upcoming battle royale from Gunzilla Games. A full interview diving into Off The Grid will be available tomorrow, but having seen so many figureheads in gaming attempt to jump across into film, and seeing the medium as a whole constantly use film for inspiration, I wanted to get Blomkamp's thoughts on where the intersection between games and film currently lies.
"Filmmaking is like the 20th century art form, and it's very clear that – the word 'games' is the incorrect word – this interactive experience, going forward, is going to replace films," he says. "Everyone is going to be doing this and films are going to be a lot like books on a shelf. In the 1990s, people would watch films and books would be there, but they would be secondary to the cultural phenomenon that films were. I think this interactive gaming experience is going to do that to films. Films are static. And I don't mean passive, I mean that they're not necessarily changing. With computational changes with complexity in the structure of games, and learning more about how they work and what audiences want from them, the interconnectivity, the speed [and] scale of the internet, you could very well end up with some sort of Ready Player One situation pretty soon. The sky is the limit, it's just a wide open space of pure unbridled, untethered creativity. I think the film industry [doesn't] look outside of their fishbowl much, but I think if they did, they'd be pretty terrified about where entertainment is going."
It has always felt to me like gaming has a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to film, which is why we've seen games embrace cinematic storytelling and covet the comparison. It's also why, I suspect, we're so proud of the fact The Game Awards gets more viewers than the Academy Awards, ignoring the fact that TGA is far more of a popularity contest and pulls in a huge chunk of its audience with the promise of trailers, reveals, and teases rather than the awards being given out themselves. That's why it was so interesting to hear Blomkamp suggest that if anything, film should be the medium feeling inferior to games.
"It's already the other way around," he says. "You're saying that there's an inferiority complex and they worship film. That's completely possible, but it's probably only because they're the new kid on the block. But if you look at if you're talking about an eight year old today, when they're 28, what relevance will film have to their life versus whatever this interactive gaming experience will be? I can tell you it's like films are not going to be the primary thing."
Blomkamp's point on youth was not one I had considered – it's certainly true that kids these days care more about video games than they do about movies, and with so many video games around these days, and with the medium rapidly attempting to mature, perhaps they won't ever have to grow out of it. Right now, movies remain the focal point for pop culture (the most famous people on the planet are still movie stars rather than gaming's leading lights), but that could be changing too. Superheroes have monopolised box offices, and I think my parents could name as many movies up for Best Picture last year as they could games up for Game of the Year: namely one from each, West Side Story and Resident Evil.
It remains to be seen whether gaming will oust film as the peak of pop culture media, but for now, you can check out the trailer for Off The Grid from Gunzilla Games here. The game is coming soon on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.
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