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BLOPS Will Eat Itself

December 13th, 2012

There is a trailer for a movie and it has GlaDOS in it, and the movie isn't named "Portal" or "Portal Two."

A director played Portal and said "I like this so I'm just going to take it exactly as it is and put it in a totally different context for no other reason than I really liked it the first time I heard it."

This is a big thing. This is a big thing because that's what we do.

It's no secret that one giant arm of the games industry has been trying really really hard to be Hollywood for some time now, but a less obvious trend I nevertheless continue to notice in my peripheral vision is how the biggest movies are slowly becoming a little more every year like video games: as budgets soar but content bottoms out, the biggest and most successful movies demand more and more that viewers simply kowtow to their bizarre internal logic because fun trumps thinking. A movie's characters ignoring its own plot holes and a game ignoring its own weird game logic and limitation-imposed inconsistencies are two sides of the same coin.

However, as far as I'm aware this is the first time the games industry has been the victim of its own shameless cribbing. There have been movies about gaming and inspired by gaming and based on game licenses, sure, but Hollywood hasn't just pilfered anything wholesale and out of context from a game before. Game developers have done this to movies for decades. It's undeniably one of the largest raw sources of ideas in games at all. Take the canon of games since 1990 and subtract everything that doesn't trace its content lineage back to a movie somehow and you're left with some pretty big gaps. Do the same for Hollywood and the IMDB will be left almost entirely intact, and probably the better for it.

So Guillermo del Toro has decided he wants the GlaDOS voice in his movie, so as near as I can tell, he just put it in. In Portal, it carries a sinister but goofy playfulness that matches that game's tone perfectly. In this much darker and more self-serious looking film, that motherly techno-cheekiness makes jarringly little sense (and no I haven't seen the whole movie yet, obviously, but I think the trailer gives us a rather strong sense of the movie's tone). If you don't agree, consider what that computer's voice might sound like if Portal hadn't happened. Would it have been independently designed to sound anything like GlaDOS? No. Not likely. It's not in the movie because it's appropriate to the movie, it's in the movie because the director saw someone else had one and he wants one too.

This is, like, Game Design's life story. What's important here is not that Guillermo del Toro has decided he wants the GlaDOS voice in his movie, but that he wants anything from a game at all. He's not stealing awkwardly-autotuned Ellen McLain so much as he's stealing stealing.

This can only mean one thing: games and movies are converging. Now it's officially okay for movies to just plain mimic games without always understanding why just as games have forever done to movies, and this is only the beginning. Today, on 12/12/12, the cultural continuum has formed a closed loop. The snake has finally caught its own tail and become an ouroboros, slowly tightening as it eats itself. The next big moment to watch out for will be when a second game developer who isn't Valve and isn't making Pacific Rim: The Game hires Ellen McLain and awkwardly autotunes her, not because they liked it in Portal but because they liked it in Pacific Rim. This will represent the point that the ouroboros begins shitting itself back out into its own mouth.

It will tighten further and further and one day its head will reach its head. The loop will contract to a single point. There will only be one game, and one movie, and they will be each other's tie-ins. The movie adaptation of the game will come out every 4th of July weekend, and the game adaptation of the movie will come out the second tuesday of every November. No games or movies that aren't Game: The Movie or Movie: The Game will be greenlit ever again, because market studies will indicate that that doesn't sell.

I call it the Cineludouroboros. It's happening.