5 Ways John Carpenter Influenced Videogames

Happy birthday, John. We love you.

by Benjamín Harguindey

In order to celebrate Master of Horror John Carpenter’s birthday I was originally going to do yet again a Top 5 of his movies (which, for the record, invariably ends with The Thing), but why not take the road less taken and instead sing praise on a subject he’s rarely celebrated for: his indelible influence on the videogame industry.

Carpenter is an avid gamer, having originally been introduced to the medium by his son. He noted he’d “love to work on an original video game” in a 2013 interview with Giant Bomb, a videogame website for which he’s contributed his own personal Games of the Year lists on occasion (he’s a big fan of Assassin’s Creed, Borderlands and Far Cry by the looks of it), and regularly tweets his critical impressions on social media. When asked by Uncut if he ever sees the influence of his films on video games, he replied “I’m not that egocentric, I’m just not. I don’t sit around and think, ‘Oh boy, I influenced that’.” So let’s do it for him instead.

5. Adaptations of his work

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Most of Carpenter’s films have been sequelized – sometimes by the man himself – and some of them have also been adapted into videogames, with Halloween (1978) becoming an Atari 2600 title in 1983 and Big Trouble in Little China (1986) spawning a Commodore 64 title a year later. Carpenter had nothing to do with these, though he did voice the character of Dr. Faraday – as well as lend his likeness – in the 2002 videogame sequel to The Thing (1982). And if you’re wondering, it was way better than that prequel from some years ago.

4. Working in videogames

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Carpenter himself has worked here and there behind a couple of videogames, scoring the 1998 puzzle game Sentinel Returns with his trademark synth music and then working on the 2011 first-person shooter survival horror F.E.A.R. 3, directing the cutscenes, co-writing the dialogue and narrating the game. He also sanctioned the storyline for Snake Plissken’s Escape – an Escape from New York (1981) spin-off – which was, alas, cancelled before its original 2005 release date.

3. Dead Space

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I would love to direct Dead Space,” Carpenter has stated. “It would make a great movie“. Time and again the filmmaker has voiced his love for the franchise, a series of horror games set in space. From Dark Star (1974) to Ghosts of Mars (2001), Carpenter is no stranger to the perils of space. While the games themselves are more in the vein of the Alien movies or Event Horizon (1997), the gory necromorph creatures are indisputably inspired by the shape-shifting body horror threat of The Thing (1982). So the prospect of directing an adaptation is understandably fetching, though if you ask Carpenter, “Dead Space 2 is even better“.

2. Duke Nukem

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I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass,” proclaims Rowdy Roddy Piper while holding aliem scum at gunpoint in They Live (1988). “And I’m all out of bubblegum“. The character of John Nada went on to provide the basis for arguably the most iconic ’90s action hero of the videogame industry: Duke Nukem. On top of resembling the character and spouting his signature one-liners, Duke continues the fight against alien invaders (sans the mordant social commentary). The latest game in the series went so far as replicating the movie’s rooftop ending, in what’s proven to be a lengthy ongoing homage to both Carpenter and Piper.

1. Metal Gear Solid

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Carpenter’s films have inspired not one but two of gaming’s greatest action heroes: spy extraordinaire Solid Snake from the Metal Gear Solid games may be a composite of 80s action badasses, but without a doubt it’s Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken – from Escape from New York and Escape from L.A. (1996) – who provided the basis. Solid Snake inherits not just the name but Plissken’s eyepatch, flowing mane, high-tech gadgets, military background and his laconic grumble. Creator Hideo Kojima even tried to get Russell to voice Solid Snake’s father in Metal Gear Solid 3, but failed to coerce Plissken to take on the mission.


BenjaBenjamín Harguindey / Managing Editor, Writer (Mar del Plata, Argentina – 1989) Screenwriter graduated from Universidad del Cine, Buenos Aires. Benja’s worked for EscribiendoCine as a film critic since 2010, covering the Biarritz, San Sebastián and Venice festivals. He judged the CILECT Prize and won several writing & criticism contests. He’s published one novel, Noches de Tartaria (2006).

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