Inception as Videogame
In the past year, I have been struck by how often I see videogames as informing other media productions. Up until recently, games were often thought of as struggling for legitimacy by trying (and inevitably failing) to represent/approximate “reality” and/or appealing to more respected art forms. Academics, designers, fans, and media have all been guilty of establishing these various limiting frames and viewing games through them. Fortunately, I think these trends are eroding. Games are being judged on their own qualities and attention is being paid in their design to what they do differently from film, books, etc. Moreover, there are an increasing number of non-game texts drawing inspiration from videogames. It’s clear that videogames are so well entrenched in culture that they have become, as all media eventually do, part of a network of remediation and intertextuality.
While watching Inception, I could not help but think of all of the ways its subconscious playground compared to the experience of playing a videogame. I believe the film is just a valuable as an exploration of gaming and affect as it is dreaming.
Below is a list of similarities I generated:
(Please note that I realize none of these similarities only apply to videogames. However, I do think that when taken as a group they form a convincing argument for Inception’s game-like qualities.)
1. The film is heavily invested in a set of rules and logics which guide the action and events. The first act is focused on helping the viewer, whose surrogate is Ellen Page’s Ariadne, understand the system.
2. Similar to theories about game avatars, the people within the dreamworld are projections of the users’ subconscious.
3. There’s a heavy focus on the navigation of space. The architect/designer building the world is tasked with creating appropriately challenging labyrinths.
4. The worlds have their own physics engines.
5. The ideas being quested for are locked away like treasures.
6. Time is sped up. (This particularly reminds me of the quick clocks in sports games as well as first-person shooter characters running 15-20 mph.)
7. There are different levels of increasing difficulty.
8. Frequent and/or addicted users have a hard time distinguishing between dream and reality.
9. There are single player and co-op modes.
Can you think of any others?