KUBRICK AS CHESS HUSTLER, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE COLLABORATION BETWEEN STORYTELLING IN GAME DESIGN AND FILM

This is a repost of an article I wrote for the NYU Cinema Research Institute where I am a research fellow. Although I wrote this article a few years ago, I think that it is still very relevant to the current discussion around virtual reality, gaming, and film storytelling.

My work is focused on storytelling at the intersection of video games and film. Specifically my focus and deep interest is how each craft can inform the other as we enter a world where a tablet or phone has morphed into a mini-multiplex where you can swipe between your choice of entertainment multiple times a day.

My interests focus on the practical elements of what designers, directors, programmers, and producers can learn from one another in an effort to create both new collaborative narratives and advance our understanding of how creators interested in working in both mediums can find a common language.

The quote that was the foundation of my research is from Stanley Kubrick whose prophetic visions of the future in Dr. Strangelove, Clockwork Orange and 2001 still resonate today.

“You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand trembles to pick up the piece and move it. But what chess teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas.”

Kubrick was not only a visionary storyteller, but it’s astounding to see him as one of the first to identify the cross-collaboration possible between game design and film storytelling well before Pong was invented or players immersed themselves in the Mass Effect trilogy.

2001 Chess Scene

While it is widely documented that his nascent photographic eye was developed as a stills photographer for Look Magazine, less reported is that Kubrick was a an amateur chess player and hustled games in Washington Square Park. In fact, as this quote indicates, I would argue that his keen photographic training, paired with his careful understanding of the game of chess might be two of the key factors that would inform the creation of his filmography.

George C. Scott and Kubrick playing chess on the set of Dr. Strangelove

The world of narrative is changing and as storytellers we have to use everything in our toolbox to bring to life the dreams that we hold in our imagination. Kubrick knew it, and now we have the means and platforms to express almost anything that our minds can come up with.

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