Now that he’s finished with his Star Wars duties, J.J. Abrams may feel as though he’s peaked in the cinematic universe. We expect that’s the best explanation for why the director and writer has turned to a new medium, and has plans to release a video game in the near future.
It’s no secret that J.J. Abrams doesn’t stay long in film franchises. He’s done one iteration of Mission: Impossible, two of Star Trek, and ended his Star Wars run with a single film as well.
So the idea of him directing a video game leaves us with pros and cons. Pro: The same guy that brought us excellent, franchise-saving films in some of the most iconic action/adventure series in history is building a video game. Con: We’ll likely only get one.
With that in mind, we thought about everything that makes a J.J. Abrams film great, and applied it to video games. We don’t have a plot yet, or even a genre, but here’s what we assume a video game by Abrams will be about.
The mystery box
Abrams is a huge fan of a concept he calls the mystery box: leaving tons of questions asked and making his audience wait for the answers. He did a TED talk about it (you can watch that above).
It’s the hallmark of any good movie, and the same applies to video games. Unexpected plot twists are well and good, but creating an entire story that forces you, out of curiosity, to keep playing, even if gameplay is sub-par, means you’ll still be finishing whatever he brings to market.
Putting the action in action/adventure
We suspect that, given a choice in the matter, Abrams will build an action-adventure game: a high-budget 3D linear experience. Think Halo, or the dozens of Indiana Jones games, only good. We expect exploration, sure, but an open world sandbox doesn’t really fit his tendency to want to guide you through an experience.
After all, the pacing is frantic in most of his recent films. You can’t sustain that excitement in a 100-hour search and explore RPG. But as a pre-built hero on a one-track quest, he can do everything he wants to do. Think less Just Cause, and more Batman: Arkham.
Alright, it’s sort of obvious, but the trademark of a good CGI Abrams scene is lens flares. He loves the visual technique, even if it doesn’t make a ton of sense in the world he’s creating. Will lens flares dominate a video game? Unlikely. But Abrams is self aware, and he knows what fans are thinking.
It’s never been beneath him to cram films full of little nods to both the canon of the film’s universe, and the legions of observant film-goers out there. We predict an opening cut-scene that starts with a lens flare, before panning down to whatever the game will contain.
Remember that show Lost? Remember the Batmobile hidden on the Millennium Falcon? This guy likes to have fun on set. J.J. Abrams is the Easter Bunny of Hollywood. That’s not going to go away when he switches media. No, you may not see nods to trademarked properties, but since much of Abrams’s work is derivative, expect familiar scenes and relationships, some referential names, and maybe a tribble or two.
J.J. Abrams likes to have fun. Lots of fun. A lot of action games these days are gritty, humorless tours de force. We enjoy those well enough, but just because J.J. Abrams has a Sith lord staring down one of your main characters, doesn’t mean he’s not going to try to make light of the situation.
If there’s a princess to rescue in a castle somewhere, our hero is going to be wise-cracking, not vengeful. We know the fight could get gritty, but Finn, Kirk, Ethan Hunt, and a dozen other characters all keep some sense of humor to things even when the going gets tough.
In all, we think he’ll make a pretty good game. And he’s not the only film director who should make a video game.
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