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Video games and movies collide at FebMoVid

At the Royal cinema, The Hand Eye Society, a video game arts and culture organization, joined forces with The Laser Blast Film Society, champions of eccentric cinema, to put together a showcase of some of the best and most bizarre moments in the history of Full Motion Video (FMV) games. Described by the organizers as “a wave of wonderfully grotesque technological chimeras incorporating the DNA of both cinema and videogames”, FMV games use pre-recorded video files to tell the story. They were popular in the 80’s and 90’s, and most come across as B-movies on steroids.

Laser Blast put together a supercut they titled “FMV Atlas” which mashed up six games on the big screen “as they were never meant to be seen.” The surreal cacophony of images incorporated kung fu fighting in ancient China, a remote controlled dad fleeing the FBI, and teenaged girls being attacked at a cottage. Explosions, ridiculous deaths, and cheesy dialogue made for a riveting experience that I don’t think would have made any more sense if each narrative was shown individually. In one game, Ground Zero Texas, the player just floats around watching scenes in the old west until cowboys (secretly aliens of course) turn and shoot at you. Utterly perplexing, FMV games are undeniably hilarious and a good way to lose a few hours to YouTube.

Expanding to the realm of interactive cinema more broadly, they next showed some clips they called “Hollywood Hubris”. Aptly named because what followed was one of the most embarrassing pieces of film I have ever watched. The 1996 interactive game Steven Spielberg's Director’s Chair is so delusionally bad, I really wanted to believe it was satire. The whole film could be played as a comedy or a drama, as evidenced by Quentin Tarantino playing a death row scene both ways. Neither were good, but the comedy was truly cringeworthy. Apparently in the mid-90s, interactive cinema experiments were all the rage. People were calling the new industry “Siliwood” for Silicon Valley meets Hollywood. But as the Laser Blast members pointed out, the fact they believed that name was going to work only further proves that interactive cinema was dead in the water.

The showcase ended with the debut of a brand new FMV game, created by Hand Eye and Laser Blast. The audience used laser pointers to make choices in the game, exploding some dudes in wacky outfits and of course saving the day. All in all, it was a fitting tribute to an artform that reminds us technological innovation isn’t always good, but often very funny.
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