Neill Blomkamp On His New Gaming Focus And The Film Industry's Fear Regarding The Future Of Games
Back in July, District 9 movie director Neill Blomkamp revealed his newest venture: joining Gunzilla Games as its new Chief Visionary Officer. While the team works towards its “next evolution of multiplayer AAA shooters,” we sat down with Blomkamp to dive a little deeper into the process of balancing film and games and why the two industries are at such an important precipice of change.
For those that may not know, Blomkamp was behind some incredible cinematic adventures, including District 9, Chappie, Elysium, and even the live-action short film for BioWare’s Anthem. He was also, at one point and time, attached to the upcoming Halo adaptation, showing his love for games and the science fiction genre in another new and creative way. With his new role at Gunzilla Games, Blomkamp revealed to Game Informer what the future holds as help straddles the line between film and games and his thoughts on both industries as they continue to evolve.
Game Informer: With your background in gaming with Halo and Anthem outside of the games themselves, what is your vision going forward with your new position at Gunzilla?
Neill Blomkamp: Well, I come out of visual effects originally. And I have a real interest in computer graphics with a specific interest in realm-time computer graphics, which I suppose is going to replace, you know, everything is not really going to be anything like traditional scaline slow-rendering. At least in a few years. So I think games are this amazing, incredibly creative thing with an amazing framework where you can use those tools of computer graphics to drop audiences into. I’ve been interested in going back to where I started, really, working professionally and in film as an animator and VFX artist. I just kind of went on the right side of this fork in the road into film and, you know, games are just as viable. Because of that, it’s pretty awesome to be meeting up with a group of veteran, awesome creators of Gunzilla and to be a part of that team.
GI: With Gunzilla’s new game being a multiplayer shooter, is that the sort of niche the team is looking to stay in? Are you wanting to branch out of the shooter realm?
NB: Kind of, I mean, everything, I guess. I guess there are two answers to that question: the first answer is everything that of all of the discussions I’ve had with the company has been around the notion of only discussing this game, and getting this game right. As the first foray into making things with the team means all of the focus is 100 percent on this one thing. Which is good! So there hasn’t been any discussion about a game afterward about what other games might be like, what genre it would be in, there’s zero to do with that right now. Which, to be honest, completely suits me. It would be like working on a film and then talking about the next one already. It doesn’t make sense.
The second part of the answer is I want a home base where I can be a part of a team making multiple games for many, many years. This is assuming that I don’t get hit by a bus or something. Like, I’m just assuming I’m alive, like several years from now. I don’t want to jink myself, , so I guess the second part of the answer is “hopefully down the line.”
GI: With your familiarity with gaming and as a filmmaker, how do you feel about the way that gaming has been evolving and its perception within the film and TV industry while standing on its own as its own medium?
NB: I think that there is a reckoning on the film and TV side. I mean, I think games are just barreling ahead. YOu know, I think even the word “games” will probably disappear like some sort of interactive entertainment. I think that the world of games, the world of real-time, graphics, and all of the different genres of experiences that are inside that world is going to just dominate. They’re going to expand at an unforeseen exponential rate. And I think film and TV are relatively locked into what it is. So, I think that the film and TV industry will witness this ever-increasing, ever-enlarging industry that is a mixture of hyper-creativity and incorporation of a bigger audience than film and TV. I mean, honestly? gaming is larger on every metric, at this point.
GI: Do you think that’s causing an element of fear on the film and TV side?
NB: I’m sure there is, because it’s the future. The future is in things that are being calculated in real-time on computer processors. It’s not a passive media where the audience sits and is waiting to be told something. I work in that industry, and I love film, but I think that it’s been 25,000 years of the human race telling stories around a campfire. There’s this mythological element in our brains that is designed for ingesting stories, and I think that people also make the mistake of thinking that that kind of narrative, like a really good movie, is all there is. Because a really good movie, it’s showing you the world through someone else’s eyes in a way where it’s almost like a simulation. You’re watching characters do things that you may or may never do in your own life, and through the results of what their actions are, you get to learn, on a subconscious level, that that is what happens regarding any given choice. The filmmaker, the writer, the director; they are feeding you information: important, nutritious, emotional information. And this only happens with the best films in a way that you can simulate living through those situations without actually having to go through them.
Now, if you go back to campfire stories, that’s what’s happening with film. Right? It’s always been a way to bring information down through generations in a way that you would remember it and it would mean something special to you. So it became a myth, and I think that that ‘myth’ isn’t possible to do in an interactive environment. I think people make this mistake constantly of mixing up narrative with the future of gaming as sort of a narrative world. And I don’t think it is, it’s the total opposite, I think the future of gaming is in more and more photorealistic environments that are more and more physically true, that allow the player to do whatever they want, in that environment. It’s like a wish-fulfillment type of thing, like if Grand Theft Auto v looked entirely real, using all five senses. So you can see that coming if you look at brain-computer interfaces and where they are going. I mean, technically even VR is a step in that direction. So basically, I think TV, movie, and games will remain very separate, but film will sort of what games do as they explode and expand.
GI: Do you see gaming having a positive impact on film, though? Like you say, it’s not stagnant but more of a fixed feature, but do you see it forcing that industry to evolve?
NB: Really, I don’t know that the film industry needs to evolve. I think that it’s an incredibly mature industry. It knows what it’s doing and how to make content for the audience it’s making films for, TV shows for. I think what will happen, if anything happens at all, will be the filming making and the filmmakers will become better and better at their craft, but they’re still locked into a framework that people have been seeing since color and sound films have been around. Maybe there will be some breakthroughs on the tech side, like with volumetric capture, but I don’t know.
GI: Do you ever see yourself leaving the film industry to pursue games full-time? Is there anything in particular on the gaming side that you can’t get on the movie side?
NB: No, absolutely not, I want to make both, I love making both. It’s my own sort of creative gratification, but both feel incredibly cool to me, I wouldn’t want to leave either industry. One thing that I like about the gaming world is that you can double-down on world creation. You can be specific with the design of the world whereas a film’s driving force is its characters and story. So I think that in the absence of character and story, the kind of world creation element that can be the focus is something I really want to triple down on. I think that’s what I get from it, you can just go crazy with the character-specific design or environmental design, or in the way you’re treading audio and the skill scope that the audience is dropped into. I was talking earlier about how much I love 3D environments and coming out of VFX; that can be the sound design of you in games in a 3D environment. It’s placing you there, as a player, and I love that stuff. In film, you’re guiding the audience on rails through something in a specific timeline. With games, you can go into any room and explore anything you want, so it’s a very different kind of psychological framework of creativity.
While Blomkamp is hard at work on Gunzilla’s newest shooter adventure, he also has a new film that fans can enjoy that centers around a young woman who unleashes demons and other dangerous supernatural forces into the world, with a rift between a mother and daughter at its epicenter. You can watch Demonic for yourself when it arrives on August 20, 2021.
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