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Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

The first movie that I watched dealing with gaming culture and Hollywood’s representation of gamers was Spy Kids 3-D Game Over directed by Robert Rodriguez. Let me just note that I watched the 2-D version of this film, without the optional 3-D glasses. One thing that I noticed right away in the film was the game’s title Game Over, which is associated with the end of a game (whether it be due to a win or a loss) or a player’s character death in a game. This was fitting in the context of the movie because the premise was that the game that these children were playing left them mentally powerless in the end and this was also the end of their free will. Game Over in general signifies the end of something and perhaps even signifies the end of fun. When a game is completed the fun is over, or when you die in a game it loses its fun factor (or at least temporarily).

A unique aspect of Game Over is that it is a virtual reality game. This is shown in the actual representation of the game and is foreshadowed in the movie’s opening scenes when Juni is meeting with the President.

“It all depends on your preference, reality or perception?” - President
“I prefer reality.” - Juni

VR games are not very popular when it comes to mainstream gaming today. There is not a system on the American market that is a true VR game. In regard to the representation of VR in the movie, there are some aspects that are too far fetched to be taken seriously. I am assuming that this is more of a “predict the future” representation of VR games, implying that maybe this will be the case someday. It reminds me of that many people my age had when they believed in the year 2000 we would all be in flying cars. It also reminds me a little bit of Back to the Future.

Game Over, also implied that playing involved logging onto the internet. We know this for two reasons. There is mention that the Toymaker is trapped in cyberspace and that is where the game was created. Secondly the scientists describing the game say that children are going to “sign on and play it.” This is similar to game systems like X-box and Dreamcast which have internet capabilities. Even most Windows operating systems now come with a game section that includes internet gaming (ie: checkers, chess, etc.).

When Juni enters the game on level 1 he looks around and says “Low-Res” which I am assuming refers to low resolution. My question is why would such a highly advanced VR game be created with low resolution graphics?

The issue of life was a big one in the movie for me. In the begining of play Juni and the others were given 9 Lives (yes thats right, like a cat) that included no replays and no restarts. The 9 lives I could understand, but the no replays or no restarts was a bit out of the ordinary. In most games you are given a designated number of starter lives, but usually there is a way to gain more life from power ups or health packs of some sort. We saw one health pack in the movie that gave restoration back to 9 lives rather than a specific number added (ie: +2, +5, etc.).

The idea of having no replays or restarts is one that does not fit into most games today. The only way I can see this happening is if there were codes used to get back to where you left off in a game. There are certain saving spots in most games, where you can resume play if something happens. This can’t be the case in Game Over though because codes and cheats were not allowed to be used. The life factor in Game Over is a curious one that is never truly explained or justified. It certainly wasn’t modeled after traditional game life.

Side Note: Juni is taken to the Games & Theory Department when he reaches the OSS.

Enjoyable Quote: “Why is it that every game has lava in it?” - Juni
“Technically thats not true. There’s no lava in Halo!” - Gamer

An interesting aspect of this sequence of scenes during the lava races was that the point of view from which we were watching the scene take place changed. One minute we were looking head on at Juni for a reaction shot and then it shifted to a direct point of view shot. This reminded me of the common option in most racing games that lets you change the point of view of your racing player. It was such a quick jump cut to that shot and back that I felt it was mimicking the way it would happen in a racing game. This was done very accurately.

Game Over did have some standard elements of games such as combat, racing, and the tagging of another player to take your place in a task (generally associated with multi-player games). The tagging was interesting in the sense that it reminded me of tag-team games for wrestling in which you can tag the second player (another human gamers on the outside) or your second choice player that is still under your control. This is similar to switching players which is done in games like Mortal Kombat and Tekken 2. Usually the character has to be unlocked and then by the switch of a button you can switch to them in mid play.

Game Over captured one of the most important aspects of gaming and that is the fact that when you are playing a game you can become a totally different person. This deals with both physical and mental factors. In the game (virtual world) you have abilities that you often don’t possess in the real world. Juni’s grandfather was paralyzed for 30 years, but in the game he had the ability to walk again. This same sensation can be felt and applied to many different people playing games. The gamers Rev, and Arnold were completely different people in regard to their personalities when they came out of the game. Part of the appeal of games is escapism and fantasy, two elements which Game Over represented correctly. These beta testers were all seeking some type of fullfillment from the game.

I suppose the biggest kicker for me came when out of curiosity I began to watch the special features on the DVD and went to previews. Apparently when this movie was released so was a vide game about it. So let me get this right, a video game about a movie about video games? Wow, just when you think they’ve crossed every possible marketing strategy this comes along.

More Thoughts on Spy Kids 3D

Comments (1)

Great observations, Leslie. Juni's dismissal of the VR game world as "low res" may be a sign that he is jaded -- he expects always to be impressed by the graphics he encounters, and the graphics in "Game Over" are nothing special. So his knee-jerk response is to dismiss the experience.

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