It has been the talk among film and video game nerds for the past two weeks: J.J. Abrams was to present the keynote at D.I.C.E. 2013 with Valve Founder Gabe Newell. If you don't know who these two men are then you've probably stumbled into the wrong sector of The Internet but we'll humor you nonetheless. Abrams has managed to fulfil, for himself, every young nerd's fantasy by directing or producing such movie and television franchises as the Star Trek reboot, Disney's new Star Wars trilogy, Fringe, and Lost.
Newell started his professional career working on Windows at Microsoft but quickly decided that he wanted to develop games so he co-founded Valve in 1996 and proceeded to wow us with blockbuster titles such as Half-Life and Portal.
To put it bluntly these are the current reigning figureheads of both Video Games and Movies. Putting them in front of the same microphone at the same event was bound to spawn some salacious headlines. The keynote started out exactly as you might expect from past D.I.C.E. conferences. Both men talked about how to create better stories and characters within their respective mediums, they even ribbed each other on the shortcomings of their own recent projects. Newell and Abrams traded control of the microphone as they showed specific scenes from their own work, highlighting where they could come together to fix the problems with the audience's experience.
Let's just get this out real quick. At the D.I.C.E. keynote this morning neither Newell or Abrams explicitly stated they will be working on a Half-Life or Portal movie together. They merely tossed out a mention that they'd like to work together on such a project and much of the headlines that came of it are outright exaggerations.
Most people would agree when video games and movies meet in the same place they are often horrible amalgamations made necessary only by overeager marketing teams. Having two luminaries from two different fields on the same stage seemed like a great place to announce something big. Penny Arcade Report's Ben Kuchera reported that Newell went on to say "This is what happens when game and movie people get together. We reached the point where we decided that we had to do more than talk". Then came the big announcement most people were waiting for. Abrams said "There’s an idea we had for a game that we’d like to work with Valve on - and we’re also excited about working with you guys on a movie. So we’re going to figure out if we can make a Portal movie or Half-Life movie together".
If you ask me that was the news I definitely wanted to hear but completely didn't expect, especially coming from a busy J.J. Abrams - he just has so much on his plate right now. The ambitious man is knee deep in Star Trek, has been confirmed as directing new Star Wars movies and is now talking about helping to create possibly the most anticipated video game/movie mashup of our generation. If ever there was a director who was setting themselves up for massive scheduling conflicts it is Abrams. Next thing you'll hear is he's somehow managed to also wrangle control of Jurassic Park IV away from Spielberg.
Gabe has created such game series as Half-Life and Portal. He's also helped to usher in a new era of digital distribution with his company's Steam software distribution platform. Valve's Steam software has become the final destination for many PC users in choosing which games to buy and play. The entire process has made managing one's game library much easier in the face of the digital distribution frontier.
Half-life and Gabe have been the target of many a joke about when the sequels to Valve games will eventually come out. It used to be said that when something was taking too long to develop that at least Duke Nukem Forever hadn't come out yet. Now Gabe is asked at every convention and nearly every interview if he has any news on Half-Life 3 or the next Episode to Half-Life 2.
Because Half-Life is Valve's grand epic many gamers are waiting eagerly for the next installment. Valve's hallmark franchise started with the release of Half-Life on the PC in November of 1998. The story pits everyman scientist Gordon Freeman against an alien invasion after he inadvertently opens a gateway to another world. After multiple expansions, a sequel and a spiritual spin off Half-Life has become one of the most well-loved franchises among gamers.
Valve has been approached multiple times since the release of their very first games about scripts, adaptations, and collaborations that could lead to movies but for none more frequently than Half-Life. Gabe has been quoted in the past as saying he was wary of proposed scripts because they strayed too far from the core of Gordon Freeman's character or the meaning of the main story. He wasn't going to sign off on a movie until he was sure it was created with the same care and attention to detail Valve has put into each of its games.
J.J Abrams began his meteoric rise to fame by creating & producing such television series as Felicity, Alias, Lost, Alcatraz, and Fringe. He then returned to making movies after having proven himself on his many creative shows. In film he had a hand in or directed Cloverfield, Star Trek (2009), Super 8, and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. We all know J.J. is a big geek. He admits to playing games and has always loved making films even as a young child. With a child's sense of imagination and wonder it is no surprise that he's ambitious when it comes to making these types of films. This May his second Star Trek movie will be released in theaters. It's hard to believe but Abrams' reign over the world of science fiction has only just begun.
Disney announced the purchase Lucas Film in October 2012. Along with the press releases, broadcasts, and speculation key executives were candid but still admitted Disney had plans to continue the Star Wars film series where George Lucas had left off. In the following months many different people were reportedly in talks to direct or write the first new Star Wars films in almost a decade. January rolled around and the collective Internet was shocked with confirmations that a man who was already busy working on rebooting Star Trek would definitely be involved with Star Wars. Abrams signed on as the director of Star Wars: Episode VII and instantly the same man was directing both Star Wars and Star Trek movies at the same time. Fuses blew, minds were melted, and there was still further speculation.
This morning's latest announcement could merely mean that J.J. Abrams is dedicated to working with Newell's Valve to help create both Valve movies and Bad Robot video games. This is a logical next step for each of these creative professionals to make their fields more respectful of the audience. As a reminder this keynote presentation is not a confirmation that J.J. will be the director or even producer of a Half-Life movie but that he wants to be involved somehow, even if it is just facilitating production. The real takeaway is that Gabe and Abrams are talking movies and the gist of their conversation is improving stories & characters across all aspects of their entertainment mediums.