During the first day of the Guerilla Collective showcase this weekend, publisher Microïds revealed an upcoming game from Pendulo Studios called Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo. If you’re expecting rooftop chases with Jimmy Stewart in San Francisco, think again. In a dev diary released alongside the trailer, narrative designer Josué Monchan explains that Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo, the game, is “freely inspired by” Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, the movie.
“The main themes of the game are roughly the same as the ones that appear in the movie,” Monchan explains. “We’ve used a lot of Hitchcock’s storytelling techniques, from his special use of suspense, the focus on the psychological side of action, night nightmarish depictions of reality, and of course, the MacGuffin.” Monchan goes on to explain that the developers have been studying Hitchcock’s unique directing style and signature camera work, as well as Hitchcock’s often used narrative framework that builds suspense by informing the audience of things that the characters do not yet know. All of these themes and conventions are a huge part of Vertigo and Hitchcock’s other films, of course, but my question is, is Vertigo itself defined by its themes and filmic techniques, or is it something more concrete, like say, the characters and the plot.
In Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo, the game, players will be introduced to a writer named Ed Miller who has miraculously survived a deadly car crash completely unscathed. Ed believes that his wife and daughter were in the car at the time of the crash, but they’re nowhere to be found. Now struggling with Vertigo (from the car crash, I guess), Ed works with a therapist to try to unravel the truth about the accident. By examining the experiences of three separate characters, players will need to “explore several timelines to cross-check the events and separate reality from deceptive memories.”
So no Jimmy Stewart, no San Francisco rooftop chases, and no portrait of Carlotta Valdez. Rather than adapt the film or tell a new story about Detective Scottie, as video game adaptation sometimes do, Pendulo Studios is using Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, the movie, as a sort of jumping-off point for Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo, the game. “Of course, Alfred Hitchcock’s movie was a major inspiration source, whether it’s about the game’s themes, its narration, or even the visual techniques we used that clearly mirror Hitchcock’s recurrent cinematographic techniques,” Monchan explains. “Vertigo is not our only frame of reference. For instance, the fact that therapy is at the core of the narrative echoes Spellbound, and some characters resemble protagonists from Rebecca, Psycho, and many more.”
So Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo, the game, is a Hitchcockian adventure game about deceit, paranoia, and the inability to trust one’s own mind. It’s Vertigo-flavored. It’s Vertigo adjacent. Were it to have an original title, there’s no doubt in my mind that players would draw clear connections to Hitchcock’s work based on the themes and iconography. But it’s not Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, so why is it called that?
Microïds acquired certain rights to Hitchcock’s work back in 2018, which at the time were described as the rights to Hitchcock’s name and likeness as well as “elements from his film Vertigo.” This is the most narrow and peculiar rights acquisition I’ve ever heard of, yet it perfectly describes what we know so far about the game. It leads one to speculate whether the publisher sought out the title based on the game Pendulo Studios was developing, or if Pendulo Studio has to conceive and develop a game solely based on “elements” from Vertigo. It’s not possible to copyright individual themes like obsession and paranoia, so it leads me to believe that some version of the former is true.
It’s clear that the game is going to some lengths to reference and honor Hitchcock’s work, but an adaptation this loosely associated was always bound to rub people the wrong way. A cynical interpretation might suggest that Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo was a title slapped onto an unassociated game for the sake of name recognition. Further, associating Hitchcock’s name with a project more than 40 years after his death, without his involvement, seems, at the very least, disingenuous. Ubisoft does the same thing with Tom Clancy, of course, but at least, in that case, Clancy himself was involved in the decision to license his name for video games.
At the end of the day, it’s all business, and Microids is evidently well within its right to use the name Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo however it pleases. Plenty of games (and films for that matter) have misappropriated titles for narratives that have absolutely nothing to do with the source material. Take Prey 2017 for example, a fantastic game by any title. Hopefully, Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo (the game) will successfully reimagine the film in a way that feels thoughtful and necessary. If not, the name recognition that the title buys may end up doing more harm than good.
Source: Read Full Article