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Video Games: How Game Developers Are Drawing Inspiration From Modern Culture


Video games have to get their inspiration from somewhere.

Although some appear fully formed, while others draw on historical events or stories, game makers and designers are constantly surfing the various strands of modern contemporary culture in order to find ideas, tropes, stories and imagery that will resonate with today’s game players.

Games based on films: Movies are, of course, the most obvious source of inspiration.

Games that are simply cash-ins on the latest blockbuster, however, are not usually particularly exciting or well received, but there are exceptions. Goldeneye 1997 was groundbreaking at the time, for its introduction of multiplayer modes to a first-person shooter, and is more fondly remembered now than the James Bond film it was based on.

Last year saw an unofficial remake for PC, and the original game has even been mooted as the subject of a feature-length documentary film.

Sci-fi and fantasy: Video gaming and science fiction / fantasy have been natural bedfellows ever since the first Space Invaders game, and the two most influential sources are Star Wars and The Lord of The Rings.

When the Lord of The Rings film franchise came out, it inspired several good quality games, with Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers and Middle-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor the standouts. Arguably, all fantasy games have a bit of Tolkien’s literary masterpiece in their DNA, if only via the way that video games build on 1970s pen and paper role-playing games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, which included hobbits, dwarves, elves and orcs among its characters.    

Star Wars: Watching the first Star Wars films now, they could almost have been designed with video games in mind, with their thrilling space-set dogfights, races into the heart of the Death Star and across the desert landscape of Tatooine.

Yet the most successful Star Wars game of old was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003), which worked precisely because it developed new stories and characters and added to the Star Wars universe, rather than feeding off it. With the rebooted franchise doing phenomenally well in the cinemas, hopes are high for Star Wars Battlefront II, due on November 17 and recently trailed on YouTube.

This multiplayer adventure is set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, and introduces a new character, Iden, a female elite Stormtrooper, alongside the familiar faces of Luke Skywalker, Darth Maul and Yoda.

Films and slots: Before leaving the influence of films, it’s worth looking at how contemporary movie culture has influenced casino slots sites.

Slots based on Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park respectively have proved hugely popular, while superheroes, such as Batman and the Incredible Hulk, have also transferred well to slot gaming.

Real life: As well as films, books and comics, video games can also draw on real life events.

One of the most intriguing recent examples is the Iranian video game, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, which as the name suggests, is based around the revolution that transformed the country in 1979. The game has been praised for its complex, nuanced portrayal of the social and political forces at work, and for creating a choose-your-own-adventure game that is both educational and fun to play.

As long as game designers remain determined to prove that their chosen medium can be the equal of film, TV or literature by developing complex narratives, subtle characterization, emotion, drama, pathos and tragedy, there will always be games directly influenced by other modern media.

Modern culture also affects gaming in the way we play those games, and in the development of games for platforms such as cellphones, that reflects the fast-moving pace of our times.

Ultimately, games and modern culture are irrevocably intertwined, each feeding into the other and generating new ideas for the future.


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]

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