A Short Film Speculates on Just How Pervasive Gaming Culture Might Become

A Short Film Speculates on Just How Pervasive Gaming Culture Might Become (photo)

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We’re never actually in the real world in “PLAY,” a 20-minute short film that’s part of the FutureStates series, which asks filmmakers to postulate on aspects of life in the coming decades. Instead, viewers glide through a series of verisimilitudes, peeling away layer after layer of virtuality. “PLAY,” which was directed by David Kaplan, who co-wrote the film with Eric Zimmerman, takes the viewer through some of the most commonly-held tropes of modern video games, but turns them on their ear. So, it’s the cute Japanese schoolgirl who’s playing the violent urban mayhem game reminiscent of the “Grand Theft Auto” series.

Lots of criticism has cropped up around video games. The medium’s been portrayed as a dangerously addictive habit, a seed for societal irresponsibility or the domain of pervy weirdos. It’s also been looked as a social connector and as a generator of ethereal interactive landscapes full of possibility. With an indie filmmaker and an indie gamemaker at the helm, “PLAY” looks at all of those ideas without judging. You can watch the film below — in the interview that follows, Kaplan and Zimmerman talk about the differences and similarities between games and movies and why Roger Ebert just may not get it.

04232010_play2.jpgHow did this project get started? Were you approached by FutureStates or did you bring the idea to them?

David Kaplan: ITVS suggested I submit a proposal for a science-fiction short. A few people had recommended me based on my past work, particularly my fairy tale short films. I came up with the basic idea for “PLAY” and was happy to receive the initial development grant. At that point, I invited Eric to become involved in the project.

Eric Zimmerman: When David contacted me, he had the core idea of a film set in a future where games are indistinguishable from reality, and that the film followed a character through a series of games within games within games. David and I fleshed things out from there.

Did the two of you have a relationship before this project?

DK: We had never worked together before but we’ve known each other for almost nine years.

EZ: We’ve been admirers of each others’ work from afar. The tipping point was when I got David to playtest my board game “The Unfinished Tale.” There’s a lot of writing in the board game that connects with some of the fairy tale themes of David’s films.

Eric, you’ve made games and now a film. What were the biggest similarities and divergences between the two mediums?

EZ: This project reinforced for me the idea that games are not films, and that all of the big budget 3D games motivated by cinema envy are really barking up the wrong tree. Film is so much a documentary medium — even on a narrative project. Film captures a moment in time: a particular selection of lens and camera angle, a performance, the light on the scene. Games, on the other hand, are synthetic from the ground up. They’re math. They’re simulations. The similarity for me is that as a designer, I’m creating an experience for someone. With a nontraditional film like “PLAY,” you have to really think about how the viewer is led into the experience, step by step, similar to the way that a player comes to learn how to play a game.

04232010_play4.jpgThe first vignette adopts the camera language of certain video games, but that gets dropped. Was that shift making a point about evolution?

DK: We considered returning to the first-person-shooter POV perspective for some of the other segments, but my concern was that it would interfere with the audience’s ability to immerse themselves fully in the film. It’s a gimmick to get the film kick-started in a very visceral way. Plus, there are many video games, such as “World of Warcraft,” which have a more traditional filmic third-person camera perspective.

EZ: It’s much weirder to have a film that is a game in which you don’t have a strict POV. The literal FPS idea keeps the viewer grounded in terms of who is the main character and what their point of view is supposed to be. But as soon as we move away from that, we have room for more ambiguity and misdirection.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.