Gaming in Movies: Enough is Enough!

This kid loves staring at a blank screen, or he can play his Game Gear without a cartridge in it. Either way I'm impressed.

Watching a movie is one of this country’s biggest pastimes. You will be hard pressed to find someone that you know who genuinely doesn’t like watching a movie. One of the reasons people love them so much is because they’re an escape from reality, whether it be to the beaches of Normandy or some far off distant planet. Sometimes the escape is achieved through the normalcy and ordinary actions of someone else’s life, but many times these actions are portrayed incorrectly. One of the biggest victims of this, if not the biggest, is the act of playing video games. I’m not sure about you, but as a gamer whenever I see someone just randomly mashing away at buttons on a controller that doesn’t go with the system to some generic sound effects, I get a little angry and become slightly distracted from the film. That may just be the cinema student coming out in me and raging at the lack of continuity, but I know I’m alone in this. Being a gamer and someone who used to study cinema in college, I feel that filmmakers are just slacking off when they include video games in their movies. It’s such a simple aspect that would not only help maintain continuity, but could also aid them on a deeper level. This article is here to point out five films, in no particular order, that at least portrayed a video game correctly, if not used the game to enhance the film itself.


This first clip is from a classic, Back to the Future Pt. 2. In it a couple of young boys stumble across an old arcade game for Wild Gunman. When he sees this, Marty McFly shows the youngsters what a “crack shot” he is at the game…yet they are unimpressed that you “have to use your hands.” This scene makes my heart hurt on so many levels. Part of me fears that this is where our children will be with their own video games in 10 years, mocking anyone who still plays a game with a controller. It also makes me sad that the children growing up now won’t know the joys of a real arcade. The feeling of saving every quarter you find and spending all of your allowance, just to have your ass kicked by some teenager in Mortal Kombat 3 or Street Fighter 2. Regardless of my own lamentations, the film makers did a spot on job with this portrayal of an arcade classic.


This next scene is from a more recent film. In the movie Reign Over Me, Adam Sandler suffers from severe depression and Don Cheadle is trying to help him cope with his demons. Throughout the movie you see Sandler’s character playing the game Shadow of the Colossus. This clip is a great example of a filmmaker using a video game in a constructive way on multiple levels. First of all, Sandler and Cheadle sat down and legitimately played the game for about a week so they could actually play it in the movie without the stereotypical random button mashing that takes place. To me this is such a simple thing to do, yet no one does it. Hearing them genuinely talk about and play the game in the scene just added a small, but impactful layer of realism to their relationship and the movie as a whole. The game that the director chose to have Sandler’s character play hit on a much more subtle level. It’s symbolic for him to be playing this game while facing his inner demons on his own. Both characters are trying to overcome what seems like impossible tasks and the director did a nice job of tying that together.


Whoever is reading this article I’m going to warn you, the above scene has a little bit of…colorful language sprinkled throughout. Boyz n da Hood is a gritty, graphic, and realistic look into life on the streets of LA in the early 1990’s. Now before anyone out there cries about this scene, I realize that Nintendo never released a black lightgun for the NES and that their lightguns looked different, but check out this article right here. They totally released a black revolver lightgun in Japan, so I’m going to go with the idea that these thugs are just that hardcore of Nintendo fanboys. Don’t judge me. Anyways, there are two reasons for mentioning this scene. First, it uses a popular game correctly with the proper sound effects and music, and it actually looks like he’s playing it (even if he does completely disregard the second duck.) Second, this movie came out in 1991, most people playing video games in movies at this point were your average geeks, dorks, and nerds. For a movie to show someone as “hard” as Monster playing Duck Hunt at that point in time was unique and refreshing.


This clip right here is by far my favorite of the bunch. The movie is Swingers, a 1996 comedy about a couple of friends getting out in the LA nightlife that first showcased Vince Vaughn in a starring role. This amazing scene of two friends playing NHL 94 while another one watches brings back so many memories of college. The vulgar language and over the top trash talking completely depicts any video game competition between guys in college. I cannot tell you how many times I was at the end of insults like that, and how many times I so smugly gloated after a goal or a win like Vaughn’s character does. For a film that’s entire plot focuses on a group of guys and the close yet “one-upsmanship” nature of their relationships, this scene ties in perfectly.


The last clip was my favorite, but this example is by far the best. The Wrestler is a film about a washed up professional wrestler from the 1980’s that can’t stop attempting to live in his past glory. I know I said the examples weren’t in any particular order, but this clip wins for one reason. They made their own 8 bit game for the movie. You read that correctly. The director, Darren Aronofsky, wanted Randy “The Ram” Robinson to have his own NES video game. So he had a couple programmers spend 3 weeks making this game. That was not just a video either, they created an entirely playable game with its own original title music and all. They even mapped it out so the actors could use real NES controllers to play the game. Now that is a great example of a filmmaker using a video game to enhance his own creation. Thank you Darren Aronofsky for not taking the aspect of having a video game in your movie lightly. Gamers everywhere appreciate it.

Agree with me? Think I’m ignorant and should burn in hell? Think this article was a waste of time? Leave a comment below and tell me why you think I’m right, wrong, or if I left out a moment you think should be in there. I’d love to hear your opinions…except for the people who disagree with me.

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