JJ Abrams and Gabe Newell on Storytelling

Abrams and Newell

On Wednesday, JJ Abrams and Gabe Newell sat down for a session at the 2013 DICE summit where they discussed the strengths and weaknesses of games and movies as storytelling mediums. Polygon has a liveblog of the chat, and it’s definitely worth reading to get a sense of their alternating points. Newell argued for the value of player agency, of letting gamers be “architects of their own amusement”, whereas Abrams argued in favor of film’s “machinery” of storytelling, which allows for narrative control. They played clips from games and movies, and each made some excellent, thoughtful arguments.

Their discussion of the different forms of storytelling was especially exciting because they ended by announcing that Abrams and Valve are planning on collaborating on a game as well as possible Portal or Half-Life movies. If it’s even possible to make a decent movie out of a game, I think JJ Abrams could be the guy to do it. However, of the two properties, I think Half-Life is a bit better suited to the movie treatment, simply because there are more characters and settings to work with. Of course, Gordon Freeman would definitely end up talking in a movie version, and that might ruin some of his carefully cultivated mystique…

How about you? Do you find the prospect of a Portal or Half-Life movie exciting? Will you be curious to see what kind of game Abrams might make with Valve? How much would your head explode if a Half-Life movie came out before Episode 3? Let us know in the comments.

Source – Polygon

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Someday I will die under a pile of books, movies and music. Until then, I'll eke out my time spent in sunny Los Angeles, California by working on the Great American Blog Post.

5 thoughts on “JJ Abrams and Gabe Newell on Storytelling”

  1. I like the concept of them working together on it, but im still iffy on how a Half life movie itself would work out. Half life and Portal would be the games to do it from but its really quite the thing. also its also quite the question raised, would it be Live action or animated? Theres alot of factors involved.

  2. That was a great read. Some fantastic theories about viewer and player interaction/agency bounced around there. Hopefully they can pull off both projects properly as this could be the most important collaboration between games and films yet. Newell and Abrams clearly have respect for each other so I can only imagine they’ll come up with something good.

    I can’t understand how a Portal movie would work, but they could have a Half Life one set before HL2 or running concurrently with HL2. Getting some background info on the universe would be awesome.

  3. Yeah, it seems like a Portal movie wouldn’t really work unless you opened the world way up and filled in a lot of details that you just don’t get from the game. It couldn’t just be another two-hander between Chell and GLaDOS.

  4. I think the best example of media relating to a Half-life movie would definitely be Halo Forward Unto Dawn. Half-life DOESN’T have to be about Gordon. It could revolve around the characters surrounding Gordon himself. A movie based on a video-game doesn’t have to be linear and have the face of the main protagonist on the cover of it. I wouldn’t mind watching a Half-life movie that involved a different character that somehow parallels Gordon’s escapades throughout Half-life and him being able to witness major events that he did in the video games.

    As far as Portal goes, that just gives Valve a great opportunity to expand on Portal’s mythos if they decide to make a movie. Maybe a background on Chell’s life before being Aperture Science’s lackey, or show how GLaDOS came to be. Valve definitely has some good source material to work with, but in my opinion, I don’t think J.J. Abrams is the right man to direct anything related to Valve’s IP. Don’t get me wrong, Super 8 and Star Trek I enjoyed very much..but he’s definitely not the right man to direct a Half-Life, or Portal movie.

  5. I concur with many of the above arguments. When making a video game movie it would be pointless to essential remake the game on the silver screen. This would be the perfect opportunity for Newell to expand on the Half-Life universe. I would love to see a movie set in between HL1 and 2 (7 hour war).
    I’m awfully curious what the cast would be. I’m definitely thinking Morgan Freeman as Eli??? 🙂
    What do you guys think??

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