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Five influences in gaming from other mediums

1/20/14 6:00pm

No piece of entertainment exists in a vacuum: With relatively few exceptions, many creative properties take inspiration from others, either cognitively or subconsciously. Every medium has done this in some form or another, but certain films, books and other properties reoccur more than any other. Before diving into this headfirst I should clarify that this isn't an accusation of plagiarism on any of the games I list but more of an acknowledgement of the influences that have formed gaming into the juggernaut it is today. So without further delay...

1: Scarface (influenced almost every open world crime game)


Brian De Palma's cartooney cartel saga was an ultra-violent, ultra-stylized movie that was a defining piece of entertainment in the 1980's, a decade that you'll be hearing a lot about on this list. It follows Colombian career criminal Tony Montana and his rise and fall in the drug trade. Besides the obvious references many crime-centered games make to it (and all of GTA: Vice City.), it's the main plot of the movie that is the most obvious tie. Most open world games start the player at the bottom of the criminal hierarchy, has them work their way up 'till eventually they're running that shit. From a gameplay standpoint it makes sense, as it presents a clear challenge and clear objective to work towards, but the influence is still there.

2: John Carter (influenced Super Mario Brothers)

Don't even think about the generic movie when you hear that name, because Edgar Rice Burrows "John Carter of Mars" book series has influenced almost all science fiction franchises made in the past 100 years, from "Superman" to "Star Wars". The premise of the books was a noble every man from Earth named John Carter being transported to Mars, where he defends an innocent race with the powers that the conditions of Mars grant him. Now, what video game character has a similar back story? The classic Super Mario Brothers of course, who went to the Mushroom Kingdom from Brooklyn and had super human abilities due to being from Earth originally. Why put John Carter on the list when only one game was influenced? Well,the original Super Mario Brothers games are some of the most influential games out there.

3: Enter the Dragon (influenced Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken)

The final film of martial arts legend Bruce Lee is about lee entering a fighting tournament located on a secluded island to defeat an evil mastermind. Not much to say about this, besides point out that it's the plot of almost every fighting game.

4: Dungeons and Dragons (influenced Ultima, Elder Scrolls, early Final Fantasy)

With all due respect to J.R.R. Tolken's middle Earth novels, I credit the table-top board game that emulated them as a bigger influence on gaming. The sword and sorcery fantasy setting is common in almost all Western RPG's and the combat system with a take-a-turn basis was adopted by a majority of JRPG's. Early Final Fantasy combined both of these features.

5: Starship Troopers/Aliens (influenced Halo, Doom, Jet Force Gemini)


This is a confusing entry, as the film "Aliens" has inspired the gaming world much more than the novel "Starship Troopers", but the novel is the only reason that the movie exists. "Aliens" has been the source of material for gaming since the early nineties with "Doom", and a few years later with "Starcraft"; Both prominently featuring space marines fending off Cosmic Horrors. It wasn't until "Halo:Combat Evolved" that a video game took so heavily from the book and film,to the point that core elements of the series can line up with James Cameron's blockbusters. The design of the assault rifle is similar to the M4A1 pulse rifle, the UNSC marines are identical to the colonial marines, and a lot of the dialog directly references the movie. Hell, the "Halo" character of SGT. Johnsen is the same character from "Aliens", SGT. Apone. (Also Dillon from "Predator.")

Taking influences is not a new gaming trend, so what other inspirations can you think of? Create wondrous debate in the comments below.

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