Scraping the barrel

Film makers have long been out of good ideas for films. Generally unable to come up with their own plots, and having ravaged British history, mythology and – worst of all – being in the process of ravaging British films, big Hollywood companies have, for the last ten years, methodically plundered what must surely be the bottom of the barrel where film inspiration is concerned. Computer games.

This would have seemed a ridiculous idea back in 1986 when computers were invented. If anybody had told me and my playmates as we grappled with Chucky Egg on a BBC micro that it was going to be turned into a blockbusting film, we would have laughed in their face.

We’d have gone to see it, of course. That’s the point, isn’t it? They sell. It hardly matters that the films are, without exception, irredeemably rubbish. (Though I would say that this summer I went to see a film based on a theme park ride and I thoroughly enjoyed it.)

Looking back to the games I played when I still thought that kind of thing was worth doing, I wonder what film masterpieces we might have got if Hollywood had got its act together a little sooner. What would a film version of Pacman have been like? Probably very surreal, possibly racist. How about Dizzy and its magnificent sequels (the computer game equivalent to Lord of the Rings), or my personal favourite, Rainbow Islands (with that title it could have been the first computer-inspired gay movie). Young folk today will have no idea what I’m going on about, and if I had a bigger house I would invite them all round and show them just what they’re missing out on.

Although I have a feeling my parents have moved my computer into the loft. Oh, the shame, the ignominy, my poor little Amstrad CPC464. You had to wait in those days for games to load, you would watch the tape go round and listen to the noise of a game loading – “duur diiiiiiiir, durrrrr, diiiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”. There’s none of that these days, and I warn you all, we are breeding impatient children.

Anyway, it seems to me there is one vital and universal game that has not yet been exploited by the film industry: minesweeper.

Why has this beautifully constructed, tense and dramatic game been ignored? A film version could take full advantage of the vagueries of its actual background as far as plot is concerned, building up a fascinating scenario within which to interweave every ounce of the excitement of the game itself.

What the film should play on more than anything else is the unfairness of it all. It is a very very unfair game. Okay, to a large extent it is a game of skill, but there is an element of chance. There’s the first square you click on, for a start – there is no way of knowing, you just can’t tell, and what a tragedy it is when your very first choice of square reveals a mine, and the little yellow smiling face (who I see as being played by Danny DeVito) crosses his eyes and weeps.

It is also possible to get yourself into a position where, having almost finished a game in an unbelievably short time, you are left with two little grey squares, under just one of which lies a mine – and there is no way of telling which.

Oh, the heartrending moment of choice. You have to guess! Time, and your potentially highest score ever, are ticking away…but which square is it? Will you choose right, or will you choose wrong?

I chose wrong. So my film is jolly well going to end in tragedy.

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