Josh Trank: My Favourite Game

Josh Trank

Director Josh Trank was just three years old when he decided to pursue a career in the movies, and his passion for gaming started just as early. With the release of Chronicle in early 2012, Trank, then 27, became one of the youngest directors to reach number one in the US box office. In doing so, he joined such names as James Cameron, who was 30 when he released The Terminator, and Steven Spielberg, who directed Jaws at the age of 29. Since then, Trank’s been rumoured to be working on Venom, a Spider-Man spinoff movie, and an adaptation of The Red Star comics for Warner Bros. Trank is currently working on a reboot of The Fantastic Four, due in spring 2015. Shadow Of The Colossus is still in the early stages of development, but recently acquired Hanna writer Seth Lochhead to pen a brand-new script.

Here, the 29-year-old creative talks to us about the artistry of games, the mass exodus of Hollywood’s new talent, and why Forza’s Drivatars are the new T-1000s.

Like Chronicle, games often give ordinary people superpowers, but people are far more inclined to abuse those powers in a virtual space. Do you think that games should try to emulate realistic scenarios more often?
I think it’s like art. The guys working in the game industry are all artists, and I truly mean that. I think they should be as experimental and crazy, as natural or as surreal, as they want to be. The great thing for me is my relationship with that whole world in a creative way, and the way I think about it. That’s not my world, it’s just a world that I’m a fan of.

There have been a lot of narrative experiments in games lately. Do you think games are starting to challenge Hollywood in terms of storytelling?
No, I don’t think so. I think that games are doing their own thing. I don’t think it’s a question of better, because it’s just a different experience. A lot of big sci-fi movies – and I won’t say any particular movies – are made with an awareness of the popularity of videogames, and therefore borrow so [many] of the design and visual ideas from those games. I’m like, “Man, that looks like Mass Effect. Those look like Mass Effect suits.” And that is not at all original or different. I also feel there’s a creative drought in Hollywood right now, because most of the young guys who would come in and be the next young, big directors are all in the videogame industry. I think if the game industry had been what it is now in the ’80s, a lot of those great Amblin [Entertainment] directors and people from that era would have been in games, too.

Does Forza 5 represent another step towards humanity’s destruction? Josh Trank certainly thinks so.

How do you think the new generation of consoles will change things?
Yeah, I’m curious. There’s this interesting implication of what kids are going to be able to do when they’re my age. Hopefully, it won’t be a dystopian sci-fi scenario. Unfortunately, I feel like it’s going to become one. When I saw this one demo for Xbox One, there was one thing that frightened me big time: these two top developers were talking about Forza 5, and how the game is going to learn you and your driving style, and it’s going to be driving and competing for you against other people when you’re not there. That scares the shit out of me!

This technology that they’re going to unleash on the planet will also then lend itself to AI that adapts to how all of us play. I’m just like, “Wait. Woah, woah. Wait. This is Skynet! What are you talking about? Are you serious?” But they’re like, “Now let’s give this technology to everybody.” Now you’ve just created the T-1000. That’s my fear of the next generation of consoles, that it’s going to be the arrival of Skynet and the destruction of humanity. I’m not joking.

What can you tell us about your involvement with Sony’s Shadow Of The Colossus film?
I can’t talk about it, but I’ll say just one thing: I got Ico as soon as it came out, and I just loved that game so much. I knew immediately when I read that [Team Ico was] making a new one that I wanted to go out and get it as soon as it came out, too, and it just blew me the fuck away. A couple of years later, I remember seeing in Variety that it had been optioned. I must have been 22 or something, and I just knew, ‘Oh my God, if somebody’s doing that, I have to somehow get in there and make sure it’s done the right way.’ It was one of the first calls I made after Chronicle came out – when I realised I could make calls about things. I was like, “Hey, what’s going on with that?” We’re working on it.

Josh Trank’s favourite game, Suikoden II on PlayStation. Our entire My Favourite Game series can be found here.

And what is your favourite game?
I would say my favourite videogame of all time is Suikoden II on PlayStation. It was one of those games that made a huge epic promise on the box, and then it totally fucking delivered in every way. The game box itself advertised on the front ‘108 totally unique characters’, and I swear to God there are 108 totally unique characters. The score in that game, and in each of the individual towns, is just the best music ever.