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The year's top films and their gaming twins
by Andrew Testerman

On Sunday, 26th February, the US awards season finally comes to a close, with the 84th Annual Academy Awards, better known to you and me as the Oscars.

The Oscars - or, as we call them in my house, 'The Movie Industry VGAs' - are a grand time in Hollywood, honouring the best and brightest in film from the previous year, along with many others hardly considered to be the 'best' or 'brightest' of anything (seriously, they nominated Rio).

With all of the excitement surrounding this year's Oscars, there is a golden opportunity to check out how the gaming industry measures up to its Hollywood counterpart. Therefore, let's take a look at the nine films nominated for the award for Best Picture, and see if we can match them with any corresponding video games.

The Artist = Limbo

The Artist, which has ten nominations and is heavily favoured to win on Sunday, was one of the most-acclaimed films of the year, taking away seven awards from the Baftas and thus it's only right to pair it with a similarly-praised game. Limbo, a side-scrolling platformer released for Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, Steam and the Mac App Store, for instance. Limbo not only shares The Artist's critical praise - it was named amongst last year's top games by several publications - but also its black-and-white aesthetic, as well as a minimal sound design. Limbo was one of last year's best games, making it a great companion for The Artist. Just make sure you watch out for spiders.

The Descendants = Bastion

Not many games feature a Hawaiian setting, and the ones that do don't quite fit; Test Drive Unlimited involves far more driving than is found in The Descendants, whilst Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow concentrates too heavily on private-eye ninja action (also, George Clooney is emphatically not a duck). Hence Bastion, a game that easily matches the prettiness of Phedon Papamichael's Hawaiian cinematography with Jen Zee's gorgeous art direction and sprite-work. Also, a hefty chunk of The Descendants' dialogue is delivered as voice-over, just like Bastion, though Bastion's writing is far less ham-fisted than anything Alexandre Payne came up with for his middlebrow domestic drama.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close = Haze

The events of September 11th are a touchy subject in the realm of games development, making the search for a parallel to Stephen Daldry's combined Asperger's-September 11th-sploitation flick rather tricky. Fortunately, we have Haze, a sci-fi shooter developed by Free Radical in 2008, and the only game that I can think of whose political message is even more heavy-handed than Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Extremely Loud is a 'Profound Story About The World We Live In' about how September 11th 'Was A Terrible And Tragic Event'. Haze is a 'Profound Parable About The World We Live In' about how 'The Invasion Of Iraq Was Bad'. Also, both Haze and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are pretty lousy.

The Help = Beyond Good and Evil

The Help concerns two African American maids (the titular "help") and their struggles against racism in the post-Civil Rights South; if that doesn’t sound exceptionally difficult to adapt into a video game, I don’t know what does. Fortunately, the film features Skeeter, an investigative journalist who hopes to expose the racism inherent in the town’s social structure, and here’s where we find our in-road. Jade, Beyond Good and Evil’s protagonist, is also an investigative journalist, and her desire to discover the truth helps drive much of the game’s plot. Additionally, The Help is a showcase for strong female characters, and Jade is one of the strongest female characters in all of gaming, making her a fitting through-line between the game and the movie.

Hugo = Super Mario 3D Land

The current leader in Academy Award nominations, boasting eleven, Martin Scorsese's newest film bears a startling similarity to Shigeru Miyamoto's latest slice of Mario goodness. Both are billed as family entertainment, but their appeal stretches to film and gaming fans of all ages. Also, both help push the use of honest-to-goodness quality 3D, and both feature several throwbacks to the early days of their respective medium (Hugo recalls silent films, while Super Mario 3D Land reaches for Super Mario Bros. 3). Am I suggesting that Hugo would be even better if it included a Tanooki suit? Probably, but I won't hold it against it.

Midnight in Paris = Assassin's Creed II

Woody Allen's best movie in years and years seems like a breath of fresh air in filmmaking, especially since its central plot hook is so unique. Or is it? Let's compare the two. In Midnight in Paris, a big doofus (Owen Wilson) gets transported back in time (in an old Peugeot) into a famous European city (Paris) and interacts with famous people (Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, etc). In Assassin's Creed II, a big doofus (Desmond) gets transported back in time (in the Animus) to a famous European city (Florence, Venice, etc.) and interacts with famous people (Leonardo da Vinci, Machiavelli, etc.). Of course, it is important to mention that Midnight in Paris features far less murder and sexual content than Assassin's Creed II. To its detriment, in my honest opinion.

Moneyball = MLB 11: The Show

Games rarely feature the electrifying, riveting dialogue featured so prominently in Moneyball, making that a poor point of comparison, and even though Jonah Hill (who I will remind our readers is now an Oscar nominee) was featured prominently in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3's marketing, he wasn't in the actual game itself. Let us then turn to the low-hanging fruit, by the virtue that it is one of the best baseball games available: MLB 11: The Show. It may not have Brad Pitt's sexy allure, but it does include a wealth of game modes and all 30 MLB teams, including the sub-fifty-feet-of-crap Oakland A's, for your film-reenacting pleasure.

The Tree of Life = Myst

Terrance Malik's new treatise on creation, spiritualism and life itself has been a darling amongst cinephiles since its release in May, and finds several parallels with developer Cyan's Myst, the best-selling PC game of the 1990s, which is now available on iOS. Both The Tree of Life and Myst are sterling examples of craftsmanship in their respective genre, showing artistic discipline and control, and often furthering their creative aims using a less-is-more mentality. Both also emanate a spiritual vibe, and are best enjoyed as an experience, absorbing their subtleties and how they each paint the corners of their respective mediums. Best of all, both The Tree of Life and Myst are nigh-impenetrable and mind-bogglingly dull to the common man. They're the perfect match.

War Horse = Darksiders

In Darksiders, you play as the harbinger of chaos, War, and during the course of the game, you acquire a Horse. Quod erat demonstrandum.

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- Andrew Testerman

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