Before embarking on Pan’s Labyrinth, this year’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army and two upcoming movies based on The Hobbit, director Guillermo del Toro confessed a love for playing videogames. Don’t they all? Unlike his peers, however, the wildly talented Mexican meant it, and has references on hand to back it up. Prior to the arrival of his first collaboration, Konami’s Hellboy: The Science of Evil, he shared his passion with us.
What games did you play as a kid?
I was around for the first Pong – that’s how old I am. Then there was a lightgun game with a pistol that was very cheesy, and an Atari system. Every cliché you see in ‘80s movies, that was me.
I loved games like Asteroids and Galaga. When the CD-ROM games arrived for Mac and PC, I found some masterpieces. There was a Japanese game called Gadget that was very influential on movies like Dark City and The Matrix. There was also a very scary one called Cosmology of Kyoto: every time you died you had to go through a different hell. And you could reincarnate as a dog!
How far have games really come since then?
They’re an incredible storytelling tool, one that filmmakers should embrace instead of reject. In the next ten years, they’ll yield a couple of narrative masterpieces. Already they allow you to tap in to a more immersive narrative experience than most movies. Not all, but most.
What’s impressed you recently?
I love the engine of GTA IV. I’m not a big fan of the actual game: I’m not into break-ins or running people over, but the engine is incredibly beautiful, and the sandbox is very complete. The same goes for Medal of Honor Airborne, Call of Duty 4 or Army of Two. There are only two games I consider masterpieces: Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.
How about BioShock?
I absolutely loved BioShock. I loved the world, the design, the lighting, the beautiful art direction and cinematography. I’m a fan of Silent Hill, Resident Evil and Devil May Cry. I love them all. The first Silent Hill was so beautiful, almost like a Lynch, Polanski or Romero type of horror experience.
Your first videogame pitch was a project called Sundown. What happened?
That fazed a lot of developers. Believe it or not, if you’re not following a model, it’s very hard for them to think outside the box – much like Hollywood. We came up with some really cool stuff – some stuff I’ve seen in other games now – but we were pitching it two or three years ago. It’s not a big deal. I’m a game player, and I can keep thinking about what I want to see and make it reality when I finally get to design one. Maybe I’ll reinitiate contacts in the industry in the near future.
Vin Diesel and Peter Jackson have opened up their own game studios. Can you see yourself following suit?
Yeah, maybe. I’d love to find a way to fuse several platforms into one and make the release of a game and a movie an event that’s actually interactive, but not in a hurried way. I was very impressed with the way the Lord of the Rings games were developed. They’re very high quality in many aspects and – who knows? – maybe we can do something like that with The Hobbit.
What was it like working on Hellboy: The Science of Evil with Konami?
I enjoyed it very much. I would have loved to develop an engine for that game, but we had to use an existing one. I think that within what was offered, which was an engine similar to God of War, we came up with a few crazy ideas. The game’s very entertaining. We took some time and were as accurate as we could be with the art direction, the dialogue and the wardrobe. Hopefully, there’s a difference in that. It wasn’t a high-end, expensive game, but I’m very happy.
How much influence do you think your gaming has had on your movies?
A lot. Videogames use art direction, colour and storytelling in a very pure way that a lot of movies have forgotten. I have a 12-year-old daughter and we play together, but unfortunately she’s more into Sonic and Kirby. We should embrace games not as a separate universe from movies, but develop the stories using both media at the same time. And I think we can.
Care to put a date on that?
The industry is incredibly slow. It’s like a dinosaur. It turns much slower than its culture. I think the content is going to develop itself through viral construction like the internet, online moviemaking and so on.