Monthly Archives: February 2015

80’s Sci-Fi Inspiration – Brazil

 

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This has to be one of the coolest movie posters of all time

Over the weekend I decided to indulge in a little art house & old school movie viewing. Working in a creative medium such as games, it’s always a good idea to draw inspiration from various outside sources. It’s no secret that games, from their very inception were influenced by the film, animation and comic book mediums, considerably.

I’ve always been a fan of the science fiction genre, my interest started when I picked up an issue of 2000 AD (loved the Judge Dredd universe) and following the G-Force (also known as Gatchaman or Battle of the Planets) tv animation series. The 80’s in particular were a great time for the genre, an unprecedented number of excellent sci-fi movies were produced. So many, in fact, that it was difficult to keep up. One particular movie that I heard good things about but never got round to seeing is – Brazil.

Finally I managed something of a double bill, watching Brazil alongside Holy Motors. Both films were predictably unhinged, Holy Motors takes the cake – gorging on it and then spewing it out. Truth be said, I had high hopes for Holy Motors but it didn’t quite live up to the hype in my opinion. Certainly no sci-fi flick here, however treading experimental art movie territory closely. Seemingly a French Mulholland Drive of sorts, but with an entirely different message.

Brazil is a completely different beast altogether, definitely the better of the two movies by a significant margin. Directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Jonathan Pryce and Robert De Niro in this 1984-inspired dystopian cult-classic. Irreverent with a healthy dose of slapstick and satire goes some way to dilute the bureaucratic retro-futurist world depicted. Ironically, many countries in the present day seem to closely resemble this world, just without the aesthetic and humour.

There is also a healthy dose of the fantastical and exploration of the high-concept. The idea of an artificial simulated world as depicted in the Matrix films is not unique. Even Megazone 23, a Japanese anime produced by AIC in the mid-80’s covered similar ground. An excellent three part OVA that I should make a point of covering in a future article. While the use of this concept makes for some incredibly interesting sci-fi, it’s a concept that is sourced from certain religious spheres. Namely from the Ancient Gnostics and to a certain extent eastern esotericism including Buddhism.

Surely a movie such as Brazil would have shocked audiences with the issues it was exploring back in 1985. Watching it for the first time, 30 years later there just isn’t much shock value left. But this doesn’t diminish the film in any way, shape or form. For one, it’s delightfully unique while conveying a warning about bureaucracy and the police state.

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Boasting some startling imagery and composition, movie buffs & game developers take note

Brazil certainly has the hallmarks of a top-notch cinematic experience, however it wouldn’t translate well as a game. At least, I’m not aware of there ever being a game conversion of this particular film license. Quite frankly, that’s a good thing as Brazil is so incredibly nuanced, it’s beyond the scope of the majority of game developers to reinterpret successfully.

Nevertheless, what I got out of Brazil was further affirmation of taking creative risks. There’s much in this movie that is off-kilter but in the grand scheme of things – everything works out!

V for Valve, V for Varoufakis

As a rule of thumb, this blog was never meant to cover matters such as economics and politics. Simply because it’s subject matter that doesn’t mesh well with game related issues. However, recently some interesting news came to my attention that’s a bit unusual from the norm. It’s not often that we hear of someone involved in the games industry in some form, eventually end up on the political stage.

Yanis Varoufakis is the new finance minister of Greece, but what’s surprising is his prior involvement with Valve. Apparently Gabe Newell, the co-founder and managing director of Valve was dealing with a problem related to linking economies in two virtual environments. He noticed that there were similarities with the way payments were balanced with that of Greece and Germany, at the height of the euro crisis.

As a political economist and self-described “libertarian Marxist”, Yanis Varoufakis was documenting the effects of the crisis on his blog. With his background in economics, he prescribed solutions that he believed would help Europe resolve the crisis. He also studied game theory (strategic decision making) and written several critically acclaimed books. Gabe Newell was impressed with his work and contacted him to help out with Steam’s virtual economy.

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For those who want a more detailed rundown of his work with Valve:

Valve Economics a blog by Yanis Varoufakis

Mr. Varoufakis has a reputation for speaking truth to power and gaining hundreds of thousands of fans in the process. Intellectuals, economists, open democracy advocates, think tanks and plenty of ordinary folks endorse his views on the economy. Particularly on the issue of austerity measures within the EU, he is a vehement opponent.

Anyone following recent developments in Europe will have noticed that Yanis Varoufakis has created a bit of a media frenzy. Predominantly for his casual dressed-down style, anti-neoliberal stance and his resemblance to a certain famous Vulcan. While he may have won over a lot of people, that doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. His views run counter to that of the EU establishment and it’s unlikely his proposals, will ever be mildly considered.

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Valve’s economist-in-residence takes up the euro challenge

Here, within the hallowed atelier of 16-BIT Shock HQ – rebels and radicals are honoured for their fortitude. However, social, economic and political issues within the European Union are of great complexity. Any policy that is taken ultimately affects the lives of roughly 500 million citizens. For this reason alone, no action should be looked upon as a mere triviality. Irresponsible lending and irresponsible borrowing go hand-in-hand, I hope cool heads and wise policy will win in the end.