I have a very cinematic style to how I plot and describe events in games, right down to occasionally using script direction “Smash cut to…” or ” we pan over the scene…” I love films, even some bad ones, and Im a very visual thinker, so it’s no surprise that television and movies have had a big influence on my gaming style and preferences.

There are plenty of movies that have had an effect on me personally, but here we’re just sticking to the ones that have obviously influenced my gaming style.

1) Just about any Bond movie. Since the first one I saw, The Spy Who Loved Me, I’ve liked the Bond movies. It’s funny that this first movie, and the rest of the Roger Moore run, are my absolute least favorites of the series. I hate campy Bond — especially the disaster that was Moonraker. By the time that pile of dreck had hit the screen, I had seen the Connery Bonds and Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (a movie that would have been a damn sight better if they had dumped the 4 hour ski chase sequences.) The only Moore flick I do like is For Your Eyes Only — no gadgets, very little cutsy crap, and Bond gets angry enough to kick a guy’s car over a cliff. I liked Dalton. I love Craig in the role. I like serious Bond films.

The series created a love of the spy genre, along with the series The Sandbaggers, so my spy-fi tended to be a bit more LeCarre and a bit let Moore mugging for the camera. I instantly took to the Top Secret and James Bond: 007 RPG. No matter what setting I’m running, there tends to be elements of espionage or crime fiction in the game. (Exhibit A: my current Battlestar Galactica campaign feels more like Cold War espionage, with the characters discovering and trying to root out Cylon moles.) No matter how strapped for cash the characters’ agency might be there’s always travel, cars, clothes, guns, and chicks (or boy toys when there are women playing.) Craig, rather than Moore.

I also developed a peculiar style of plotting stories from Bond movies: basic plot McGuffin, followed by choosing three locations and associated action sequences, then build in the clues and the twists at the end. I still do this for action-oriented games. There’s always a bit of Bond in my games, no matter the setting.

2) Raiders of the Lost Ark: A near perfect action movie (except that whole Nazi soldiers in a British allied country thing, and the sub… but hell with it, I’m having too much fun!) Like the Bond movies it got me thinking in terms of how action sequences work. How does the environment get used in a fight or chase scene (fans of chop-socky films, you should be right here with me): does Indy pull his gun, or does he hit the guy with a handy object? How can you use that deuce and a half against a motorcycle (answer: very effectively.)

The pulp sensibilities also stuck with me for my choices in games and in running games. Victorian steampunk and ’30s pulp, once you strip away the clothing and the steam vs. diesel tech differences are pretty similar in nature: often its a rush to find object X before bad guy Y does. The rest of the time (for me) it’s spies in a different era.

What these both don’t teach you is characterization. Bond is always Bond, no matter what he goes through (until the Craig pics.) He’s a thumbnail sketch of a character: a drinker, smoker, womanizer, who is coolly effective at what he does…but there’s not real weakness in him, other than women. Indiana Jones is a guided missile: put him on track to find something and he doesn’t stop. He’s afraid of snakes and not much else. Women are a weak point, too, but not enough to turn him away from his archeological goal. He is, as Belloq puts it, a shadowy reflection of the villain.

3) Anything sci-fi and Ridley Scott: It’s where I get my phrase “Ridleyville” from — shorthand for a noir-ish setting where the streets are always wet and the neon is reflecting romantically on the streets. I learned atmospherics from Alien and Blade Runner, which fits with my love of science fiction.

4) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: I didn’t really appreciate Star Trek as an RPG setting until about 2000. I tried running it, but for me, it was always the white elephant of RPGs: a good idea, but hard to find someone to do it right. It wasn’t until I realized that throwing out the stuff that didn’t work and keeping the stuff that did was how to do it. Nick Meyer did that in this film. Kirk is still an arrogant punk, but he screws up…a lot. He goes from being the incorruptible guy of the series to the guy who cheated in the academy. Put it together with the original film and you have a self-centered guy with a starship fixation who has a tendency to ride roughshod over the rules and for the most part gets away with it…but other people pay for his hubris. Like Khan and his people.

This film is the one that taught me characters weaknesses can be exploited in a fun way that takes them down a peg, but doesn’t leave them vanquished.

5) Ghost in the Shell: I was into cyberpunk early on, but GITS (and the sequel) brings a nice philosophical edge to a pretty standard cop action story. The same questions cyberpunk was attempting to address with loss of humanity in the mechanics were much better addressed by the mood of the character and the interplay with the surroundings (case in point: Kusanagi’s spotting a woman that looked just like her from the ferry, and the use of mannequins in the same montage.) Loss of humanity is better played out than as a stat. Like Sanity. (Yes, that was a swipe at Call of Chthulu.)

There are plenty of movies that I could point to as having some influence, but the first three groups here are the ones that really did it. Bond (especially The Living Daylights and For Your Eyes Only) and Raiders were the movies that really stuck with me for how I game.

Honorable Mention: The supers campaign that’s been coming together has been heavily influenced by The Incredibles and TV’s The Venture Brothers. The notion that normal folks would resent and oppress these extraordinary people is easily seen in our dumb it down to the least common denominator school systems and cultures. Laws and lawssuits, rather than fists, are a more effective means of pummeling a super into submission than a strong optical blast. (On a side note: I had a great idea for a character — a PI super whose jobs are mundane stuff — serving subpoenas, serving warrants, collecting bail jumpers,and repossessing cars of supers in trouble. The cops/companies/bailbondsmen hire the guy because he has the abilities to withstand attack when the strongman with the fire breath gets pissed your repo’ing his 2011 Mustang for lack of payment. Vinnie, the normal dude’ll be in the truck. Around the corner. Call when it’s clear.)

Advertisements