Video games are a dense and complicated sub-culture of entertainment with its own set of rules, terminology, and history. Ryan Reynolds’ upcoming video-game based movie Free Guy takes place in a fictional game and features references to actual video games. In an interview with Collider, Reynolds explained that while the basic premise of his movie centers on gaming, the story being told speaks to a broader human experience that most audience members can relate to.
“I always look at it like, sports movies are good metaphors. The greatest sports movies ever made are not actually about sports. Field of Dreams, I wouldn’t characterize that as a baseball story. They used baseball as a vehicle to tell a really beautiful story about a son and a father trying to connect. I think that we’re doing the same thing. We’re using the video game world, the Free City world, and video game culture as a sort of vehicle to tell this really beautiful and powerful human story.”
The trailer for Free Guy revealed the story of a GTA-style open-world game in which an NPC (Non-Playable Character) gains sentience and embarks on a mission to save his city from in-built villains and callous gamers. References to health bars, power-ups, cheat codes etc. abound, which might be difficult for non-gaming audiences to understand. To prevent confusion, the director of the movie Shawn Levy explained Reynolds’ character will act as a sort of middle man for the rules of the fictional world of the movie to be conveyed to the audience.
“What also helps is, if you have a character who is realizing the rules of a world, you’re able to have an audience surrogate. It’s basically a very smart way of educating the audience about the rules of engagement, the rules of the game. Free Guy does something similar because, as Guy awakens to ‘Wait, what is happening? How does this work?’, it allows us to have him learn it, just as a non-gaming audience member would be learning it.”
When dealing with the world of gaming with its vast history and fandom, it can be tempting to mire the story in countless easter eggs and references that only hardcore gamers would understand and love. But Levy believes such an approach can end up alienating the rest of the audience and get in the way of their immersion in the narrative experience.
“I think the other thing is to never be so inside-y, wink wink, inside baseball with the jokes that half the audience feels excluded. But that is the line we’re going to walk and it’s a line I’m sure we’re going to continue to explore as we edit the movie and put it in front of audiences and realize that, have we gone far enough? Have we gone too far?”
Directed by Shawn Levy, Free Guy features Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Joe Keery, Lil Rel Howery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Taika Waititi. The film arrives in theaters on December 11. This news came from Collider.