He Got Game

David Cronenberg’s Virtual Surreality

Because he wanted some distance from his artist-protagonist, Cronenberg didn't want to make Allegra a film maker or a writer. "I guess I was sowing the seed of my own destruction. I decide to invent an art form that might come to exist but doesn't yet—a game that is also an art form and perhaps it would be a truly democratic art form in a bizarre way—that many people would be involved in and yet would involve a vision. At first I thought they wouldn't actually play the game. They could only discuss it and I thought that would be kind of elegant and literary. But as soon as I started to write the script I was desperate to play the game and before I knew it, the game was engulfing the movie.

"The question of whether a game can be Art with a capital A is a whole other thing. There are some Japanese game designers who think of themselves as artists and in terms of graphics and creating an ambience, they are. But I feel there's something else that's going to come out of this technology, some art form, and it may very well come from the game world."

And does Cronenberg himself play computer games?

"I don't. I sort of look over my son's shoulder. I played Myst—not to its conclusion, my son had to show me how to finish it off. It just takes too long to get to all those levels, but I have a pretty good feel for the world you're in. And I played a Japanese film—see, there's a slip of the tongue—a Japanese game called Gadget. And I played one called MechWarriors where you control these robots and they're shooting each other. And it's very scary. You'd think that in a movie you'd be more scared because you're passive and subject to stuff. Of course, you're not totally passive because your mind is working and, in a weird way, that protects you. But when you're in an environment where you're moving around and being attacked or surprised, the interactivity makes it more real. The fact that you're controlling your own fate—that if you screw up, you get blown apart—makes it more terrifying. I found the MechWarriors world really disturbing. I didn't want to be there, so I stopped playing."

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