The Eighth Wonder of the World Meets the Eighth Art: Some Thoughts on Medium Specificity and Experience in King Kong and Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie – Terence McSweeney

Abstract: Terence McSweeney investigates the evocation of emotional response in two recent remediations of the King Kong story: cinematic and ludic. Drawing together a number of streams – gameplay, cinematic techniques, celebrity culture, cross-media storytelling and the overarching directorial signifier ‘Peter Jackson’, the King Kong franchise is presented as a complex cultural object.


When we are designing a game, we make choices that influence the final result. For some games, these choices could be compared to art, just because their combination is creating a high level of emotion — Michel Ancel

If video games are still in the relatively early stages of development compared to film and the other arts, then academic study of them is even younger still. In the last few years, video game theorists like Espen Aarseth and Gonzalo Frasca among others, have begun to forge a critical identity for video games by distinguishing what makes them unique as a medium and culturally significant, much as film scholars did for cinema in the early years of the twentieth century. In late 2005 Pulitzer Prize winning film critic Roger Ebert published a number of scathing opinions on this subject in the Chicago Sun Times, which provoked considerable debate among games developers, theorists and enthusiasts:

Video games by their very nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature which requires authorial control. I am prepared to believe that video games can be elegant, subtle, sophisticated, challenging and visually wonderful. But I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art. [1]

In contrast to Ebert’s assertions, there is a rapidly expanding number of exigent texts being written about how far video games have progressed since PONG (Atari Inc, 1972) from narratological, psychological and cultural perspectives. Ebert’s comments seem to contradict the renowned games developer Michel Ancel, whose quotation opens this article. Interactivity is without a doubt the defining characteristic of video games and the attribute which separates them from film, literature and the other arts. However, for Ebert, it is this interactivity which ultimately renders the medium insubstantial.

Ebert’s comments are distinctly reminiscent of the criticisms levelled at film more than one hundred years ago, evocatively summed up by Maxim Gorky’s classification of the cinema as being little more than a transitory carnival attraction with no future, a ‘Kingdom of Shadows.’ [2] Unfortunately, Ebert’s comments are shared by many of those from both outside the gaming community and within. [3] Yet there are those who recognise the potential of the video game medium. Christopher Gans, director of Silent Hill (2005), one of the rapidly increasing number of film adaptations of games, suggests:

Each time some new medium appears, I feel that it’s important to respect it, even if it appears primitive or naive at first, simply because some people are finding important things in it. If you have one guy in the world who thinks that Silent Hill or [The Legend of ] Zelda is a beautiful, poetic work, then that game means something. [4]

This article will mostly avoid the video-games-as-art debate by largely focusing on medium specificity, production and narratological techniques employed in the two versions of the King Kong story released in late 2005: one a game, Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie (Ubisoft, 2005) and the film, on which the game is based, King Kong (Jackson, 2005).

With their respective King Kong projects Peter Jackson and Michel Ancel cemented their already significant reputations in their fields. King Kong was Peter Jackson’s first directorial effort since the commercial and artistic behemoth that was The Lord of the Rings trilogy. For the concluding film, Return of the King (Jackson, 2003), he personally won Best Film, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Awards. For Jackson’s next project he chose to re-interpret the film, he regards as the defining influence on his career, King Kong (Cooper and Schoedshack, 1933). About the original film he is on record as saying; “It changed my life, it literally made me want to become a film-maker. It got me really excited about the magic of film.” [5]

The director of Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie, Michel Ancel, is the creator of one of the best selling Playstation games of all time, Rayman (Ubisoft, 1996) and the award winning Beyond Good and Evil (Ubisoft, 2003). In a further example of how the profile of the video games medium is increasing, Ancel was recently Knighted by the French Minister of Culture and Communication and given the honorary title ‘Knight of Arts and Literature’ alongside fellow gaming icons Shigeru Miyamoto and Frederick Raynal, the first time video game developers have ever been awarded such a prize. [6]

Peter Jackson approached Michel Ancel to make a videogame adaptation of his upcoming Kong project because of his knowledge of Ancel’s work on Beyond Good and Evil. Jackson apparently loved the game, a third person adventure about a female photojournalist revealing an intergalactic conspiracy. He says, “You become emotionally attached to the characters…I thought, this is the sort of person I’d love to work with on King Kong.” [7] Various sources have stated Jackson was disappointed with his creative relationship with Electronic Arts on the video game adaptations of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Peter Jackson’s manager Ken Kamins said, “Electronic Arts was not interested in input from the filmmaker.” [8] But, apparently, when it came to marketing the games, Electronic Arts were quick to align themselves to Jackson’s name and the increased sales such brand recognition came to represent.

The involvement of film directors in video game adaptations is not new: the Wachowski brothers were directly involved in two games based on the Matrix trilogy Enter The Matrix (Shiny Entertainment, 2003) and The Path of Neo (Shiny Entertainment, 2005), going so far as to film additional material for use in the games. Even Steven Spielberg has signed a deal with Electronic Arts to produce three original titles, which could possibly be turned into films. The evidence suggests that this will happen more and more often, not only because of the financial incentives for film studios and game companies, but also because a new generation of directors have grown up playing video games. While the film-makers of the New Hollywood movement in the late sixties and early seventies like Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese were inspired as much by the directors of the French New Wave as those of the classical Hollywood cinema; this new generation of film-makers are as likely to be influenced by the work of Shigeru Miyamoto or Hideo Kojima as they are by Quentin Tarantino or Steven Spielberg himself.

Some might say, that it is time for video games to be taken more seriously, as they are now having a truly discernable impact on cultural trends. In 2001 video game sales in the United States overtook film for the first time and have done so every year since. But placing these sales in a global perspective reveals that the film industry is still substantially larger: film earns approximately 45 billion dollars globally, compared to the 28 billion dollar total earned by sales of computer games. [9] So while neither the budgets (the King Kong game cost twenty million dollars to make compared to the 200 million cost of the film), nor the revenues are as of yet directly comparable, they are moving closer. Halo: Combat Evolved (Bungie Studios, 2001) and Halo 2 (Bungie Studios, 2004) combined sold 135 million copies, and made $600 million for the Microsoft XBOX in North America alone, figures, with which many summer blockbusters would be delighted. One must also consider that, at this point in time there are significantly more revenue streams for films (cinema, DVD, television and merchandising), whereas games returns only come from a single source – original sales.

Games and films are, without a doubt, becoming closer and closer, most charts of game sales contain numerous film adaptations, as games have become a key aspect of film merchandise. When King Kong was released on 15th December 2005, four games from the top ten were based on film franchises. [10] During the summer of 2007 game sales were dominated by film adaptations from Spiderman 3 (Treyarch, 2007) to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (Disney Interactive Studios, 2007) and Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer (Take-Two Interactive, 2007).

Just as film is frequently referred to as an amalgamation of all the other arts; Andrei Tarkovsky called film ‘Sculpting in Time’, Vachel Lindsey referred to film as ‘Sculpture in Motion,’ games incorporate the language of film and introduce their own medium specific elements. While film scholars are understandably reluctant to admit it, videogames are potentially as broad an arena for criticism and debate. [11] These unique attributes themselves are not insignificant; perhaps, the most important is the aforementioned interactivity (See Aarseth, 1997). One must also consider the multiplicity of ways of experiencing video games, the fact that Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie was released on a rarely seen number of games playing devices is indicative of this; versions were released on XBOX360, PC, PS2, XBOX, GBA, DS, PSP and mobile phones, [12] each being different in much more varied ways than watching a film at the cinema or DVD. Furthermore, there are also very particular differences between playing on each different system; not least the variety of controls, especially now games are being adapted to consoles with unique controlling devices like the Nintendo Wii and the Playstation 3, but also inherent differences in the games themselves. From a phenomenological perspective the experience of playing Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie on a handheld console like the Nintendo DS is completely distinct to the experience of playing the game on the XBOX 360. Many of these areas have remained, as yet, unexplored by gaming theorists.

In addition to this, cross pollination between films and games is becoming progressively more common. Games are now being routinely adapted into films, as well as the other way around, for example, recently Hitman (Gens, 2007), Resident Evil (Anderson, 2005) and Doom (Bartkowiak, 2006); this is without mentioning the cinematic abominations that are directed and produced by the German auteur Uwe Boll like Alone in the Dark (2005) or House of the Dead (2003). Aside from direct adaptations the language or issues of video gaming are cropping up in more ‘respectable’ films: Existenz (Cronenberg, 1999), OldBoy (Park Chan-wook, 2004) and Elephant (Van Sant, 2003). In a further step towards cinematic legitimacy Peter Jackson himself is producing a film of Halo: Combat Evolved.


I think that intrinsically, most video games, and virtually all movies, do one basic thing: tell stories — Peter Jackson

When considering medium specificity in interpretations of the King Kong narrative, one might begin with the way the authorship of games are acknowledged in academic writing, the director is named after the title of the film i.e. Spiderman 3 (Raimi, 2007) or King Kong (Jackson, 2005). However, the director of the video game is not required to be mentioned in Metal Gear Solid (Konami Computer Entertainment Japan, 1998), a description which ignores the contribution of the creative force behind the game, Hideo Kojima, in favour of the company, which produced it. Michel Ancel is both removed and replaced in Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie (Ubisoft, 2005). [13] Does this seemingly insignificant classification actually marginalize the role of the director in video games? Of course, games are a collaborative medium, as is film, yet in cinema the film director ultimately gets authorial credit, whereas the director of the video game is omitted. Or is it, perhaps more worryingly, also suggesting video games are not judged by the same criteria as other art forms and, therefore, to cast doubts on their legitimacy? Would Citizen Kane ever be referenced as Citizen Kane (RKO Radio Pictures, 1941) rather than (Welles, 1941) or The Godfather (Paramount Pictures, 1972) rather than (Coppola, 1972)? This authorship debate consumed film theory for more than twenty years moving from Cahier du cinema in France in the 1950s over to Andrew Sarris in America in the 1960s but has yet to make a considerable impact on video game theory.

King Kong is one of the most iconic projects in film history and is based on the original King Kong from 1933, which itself was given a sequel in the same year, Son of Kong (Schoedsack, 1933). It was remade forty years later again as King Kong (Guillermin, 1976), and both a live action television series and an animated cartoon have since been added to the canon. There have been many remarkable academic works on the Kong narrative itself over the years, encompassing analysis of its alleged racist content [14] , a discussion of its role in the New Deal and 1930s politics, [15] and it has even been approached from a variety of psychological perspectives. [16]

Peter Jackson’s version, seventy-two years after the original, was released to very positive reviews; critics praised the quality of the acting and the visual effects, the obvious passion and time invested in the project and the humanity and personality given to the character of Kong himself, who became a living and breathing quasi-protagonist with feelings and perceivable emotions, despite being ‘just’ a computer generated image. Steven Hunter in the Washington Post describes the film:

Jackson’s big monkey picture show is certainly the best popular entertainment of the year. The film is a wondrous blend of then and now: it honors its mythic predecessor of 1933 while using sophisticated movie technology to seamlessly manipulate the fantastic. [17]

The reviews for the game were also similarly positive, on the site Metacritic, which calculates the average score of all reviews released for games; it received a healthy 82 percent. Douglass C. Perry from gaming website IGN called it “an organic and beautifully crafted re-creation of the movie in game form, adding and changing the landscape of Skull Island and tweaking the storyline a touch here and there to achieve success in the videogame medium.”[18]

Whereas the film runs for 187 minutes and on the whole experiences of the narrative will generally be uniform, [19] stating the length of the game is more problematic (as it is for any game), because it will depend on the approach the player takes and the gaming skills they possess. A more skilled player may complete the game in a shorter time, with greater efficiency and speed of progression. However, some players may spend more time exploring the environments of the game, increasing the games length considerably. Other gamers prefer to speed through the game as fast as possible, seeing the process as an intense challenge with the fastest possible completion being the ultimate goal, an approach that seems to have become more commonplace in the wake of the introduction to various forms of achievement recognizers such as Microsoft’s Gamerscore achievement points. The general consensus of the reviews and the developers is that the game will take on average somewhere in the region of ten to twelve hours to complete. [20] The additional length of the game comes about by expanding upon the film’s events considerably, interspersing a great deal of new narrative material. While the film cuts away from these events, the game is able to allow the player to experience them. [21] In fact, the visual effects department of WETA designed new creatures and backgrounds especially for use in the game.

The core narrative of both the film and the game is roughly the same. In 1930s America, a film director, Carl Denham (Jack Black) takes a cast and crew to an uncharted area called Skull Island in order to make an epic movie. When the crew crash lands on the island, they discover that it is populated by dinosaurs, tribal natives and also a giant gorilla. When the lead actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is kidnapped by the huge ape, the writer, Jack Driscoll (Adrian Brody) and some of the crew set out to rescue her.

There has generally been something of a stigma attached to video game adaptations of films. Many have perceived the genre as a quick cash-in, rather than an attempt to create a title which works on its own merits. Peter Jackson, being a gamer as well as a film-maker, states that he “wanted the game to be able to take the audience a bit further than what the film could.” [22] Xavier Poix, Studio Director at Ubisoft, where the game was produced, suggests that “Peter Jackson made us feel comfortable because he really did not want the game to be a simple adaptation of the movie but he sees the game as a sister or a brother to the movie and an expansion to his universe.” [23] The similarities or differences between film and game narratives have provoked divisive responses from game theorists, some suggesting they are intrinsically connected (See Murray, 1997) and others stressing the difference is at the heart of their construction (See Aarseth, 1997).

Perhaps, the biggest production decision, in terms of how the game is adapted from the film, is the decision to allow players to participate in the game from the perspective of two extremely different characters within the narrative. A traditional video game adaptation of a film would place the player in control of the hero of the film, perhaps, Spiderman in Spiderman 3 or James Bond in Goldeneye 007 (Rareware, 1995). Some might allow the players to play multiple protagonists like Harry, Hermione and Ron in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Electronic Arts, 2002) or Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael in The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Ubisoft, 2007). In some respects Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie follows this pattern, the majority of the levels are played from the perspective of the hero of the film, Jack Driscoll. These sequences are experienced in the first person perspective ala Halo or Doom (Id Software, 1992). Some interesting work has been done on the evolution and implications of the first person perspective in games (see Galloway). This technique is common in film, of course, frequently referred to as a point of view shot. Directors have traditionally used this perspective when they want to present information or experience from a particular character’s perspective, though films are very rarely shot from this perspective alone. [24]

The game makes a very interesting design choice in the fact that it chooses, at various parts of the game (in my experience the ratio seems approximately 70% to 30%), to allow the player to switch characters and play as the eponymous King Kong himself. The Kong sections are very different to the Driscoll sequences: firstly they are viewed in the third person as in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo, 98) or Metal Gear Solid (Konami Computer Entertainment Japan, 98). One of the things the film was most frequently praised for was bringing the personality of Kong to life and presenting him as a sympathetic and believable character, for whom the audience learned to care. However, it could be argued that a game is able to potentially do this much better than a film, and in the case of Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie it, perhaps, does. Surely playing the game from Kong’s perspective achieves this much more profoundly? Not only do you get to see what it is like to be Kong, you actually get to experience it yourself.

In the Kong sequences the mise-en-scene is strikingly different, as are the controls. Playing as Jack Driscoll the player battles as much against the environment as the animals that populate it; the jungle is oppressive and continually conspires against you, danger lurks at every turn. Behind every tree a dinosaur potentially waits, hurling themselves at forcing you to run as much as you actually fight. However, when you play as Kong, the island feels very different: impassable trees for Jack are mere bushes, Kong leaps and swings over cavernous drops, the very same dinosaurs, from which Jack ran away for his life, are swatted like flies by Kong’s powerful limbs. Poix says, “Peter told us he wanted King Kong to be intuitive to the player; to give him the pleasure to feel the power of Kong…He wanted the game player to feel both emotions.” [25] In fact, many of the reviews focus on this area, mentioning the emotions present throughout the course of the game, this is very rarely an element praised in gaming. IGN called it “an unbelievably emotionally-packed videogame.” R Sluganski at Just Adventure described it as, “The most exciting, immersive game you will play this year, and almost any other year for that matter. Hopefully, it will set the standards for future movie-based games, much as the 1933 film set standards for future generations of film-makers.” [26] How is it possible then for medium, which according to Ebert, focuses on “scoring, pointing and shooting, winning and losing”, to deliver such an emotional experience?


My feeling is that a game creator is building a situation in which the player is experiencing emotions. The creation of this ‘emotional situation’ is very complex — Michel Ancel

Many successful games these days are increasingly being described as cinematic, as if a game, above all, should aspire to be like a film. This comparative approach is only natural for what is still, in many ways, a fledgling medium, the same type of comparisons were made in the early days of film history. One of the most significant pioneers of film language, D.W Griffith compared his cross cutting techniques to their literary equivalents in Dickens and Tolstoy. But just as new media look to the old, they must also embrace what is unique about their own form and construction. The phrase ‘cinematic level of immersion’ is also frequently used in reviews these days. Yet, surely, this assertion is something of a misnomer, as a game, by its very nature, can be far more immersive than a film.

The evidence for this is remarkably straightforward; for many, interactivity is categorically more inherently immersive than the passive experience of watching. By playing an active role in the events of a video game, as they unfold, one immediately feels more involved and by extension more immersed in the narrative experience. Of course, one would feel much less involved in bad games, as one would with bad films, but the potential for immersion in video gaming is greater. Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie is a good example of how immersive successfully constructed video games can be. By effectively removing several of the most obvious barriers to immersion in the game, it makes the whole experience much more dynamic. One of the ways Ancel achieves this is by removing the Heads Up Display (HUD) from the players view, enabling them to be placed inside the world view rather than outside of it. By not having their view obstructed by energy bars or ammo counts, a more dynamic and immersive world is created. These HUDs have been a part of video games since their inception with Pac-Man (Namco, 1979) and PONG and have been previously considered as a vital part of the video gaming experience:

HUD elements can be used to show, among many other things, how much health the player has, in which direction the player is heading, or where the player ranks in a race. This makes the HUD an invaluable method of conveying information to the player during a game. It is an accepted shorthand, a direct pipeline from the developer to the end-user. [27]

Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie deviates substantially from these original patterns in a trend which is becoming more popular in contemporary video games. [28] There are no life bars to represent Jack Driscoll’s energy levels, or symbols to show how many bullets left in his gun. The game uses both visual and audio cues to suggest to the player their game status. When Jack is wounded, the screen flashes blood red, reinforced by the sound of heavy laboured breathing and a rhythmic pulse becoming more and more pronounced, until the character dies. The game informs the player about the status of ammunition by having the Adrian Brody call out phrases like, “It’s OK, I have enough,” “Three cartridges on back-up,” and “Almost dry”, before crying “I’m all out”.

Indeed, the quality of the acting plays a key role in immersing the player. It could be suggested that attachment to the game characters is improved because of prior knowledge and affection for the film and the characters within it. Video game characters are, unfortunately, usually given little more than the most rudimentary characterisation or motivation, but with Ancel’s game much more care is taken with character development. In addition to this, the computer generated versions of Ann Darrow and Carl Denham are strikingly life-like even on less powerful systems like the Nintendo DS or the Sony PSP. With all of their distinctive voices present, there is something more thrilling about rescuing Naomi Watts rather than an anonymous animated heroine. Andy Serkis’s performances as both King Kong and Gollum from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy can be taken as further evidence of the crossover between video games and film, as the technology itself becomes symbiotic.[29]

These performances play a large part in the opening sequence of the game, which introduces the players to the diegetic world and the game controls without ever breaking the illusion of believability and refusing to present the narrative as merely a game. It is not rendered as a distancing cinematic, where players passively watch action unfold without playing a part. The controls are introduced by allowing the player to choose which axis to move without being prompted; a character calls to the player, “Look up here”, depending on the way the player reacts to this, the game registers and selects this option of movement for the rest of the game. Such a simple technique, but far more satisfying, atmospheric and immersive than the traditional menu screen with boxes ticked as options are chosen.

Registering the interactive element of games even further, despite always opening with the same sequence, the game does not always necessarily conclude in the same way. Films cannot offer such branching narratives due to their linear nature, gaming experiences can be much more varied, though some theorists have disagreed (See Aarseth, 1997). While Peter Jackson’s film will always end with King Kong’s iconic fall from the Empire State building to his death, the game offers an alternative ending: if players achieve certain tasks in the game, Kong is returned alive to his home on Skull Island. Games have frequently offered alternative endings to gamers and, because of it, an expanded experience of narratives, something film can rarely offer. [30] Jackson concurs, “The final climax of the game gave us an opportunity to do something that the film could not do, which was to have an alternate ending.” [31] This broader variety of experience is, perhaps, one of the reasons games are becoming more and more popular.


In terms of visual effects in motion pictures, all the great breakthroughs of how we make movies now have pretty much been done. All the great discoveries, they’re done. Everything that’s being done now is refinement… However, on the game side of things, games are getting ready to have huge frontiers crossed…I think there’s a whole new medium developing. Now it’s called games, and I think it’s going to become something else, which is more like cinematic, interactive-media experiences. Young people are playing more games than watching television right now. That should tell you something — Ron Pellerin

So, where does that leave games in terms of medium specificity? Pellerin’s comments make fascinating reading for those interested in the future of video games. His passion and enthusiasm for the medium is infectious. However, he sees games as moving closer and closer to films to such an extent the two are intertwined, rather than games forging their own identity as a separate medium. Yet his absolute statements about the future of film are, of course, utterly naïve, reminiscent of the patents board at the end of the 19th century, declaring everything had already been invented.

The ‘next gen’ has become the current generation with the release of the XBOX 360 and the Playstation 3, but both machines have yet to distinguish themselves from their predecessors in any way other than improvements in graphical capability. Only the Nintendo Wii has differentiated itself with its innovative control method, its most successful titles have embraced this uniqueness. The Wii has also managed to change demographic boundaries that had previously relegated gaming into a niche for years, though what impact this will have on the future of gaming remains to be seen. The gaming medium is changing significantly with every year that passes; witness the huge difference between games produced in 1998 to the games of 2008 compared to the changes in film in the same period.

Despite games being more popular than ever before, what the future holds is still uncertain. Perhaps, in a purely speculative fashion, looking at the evolution of film could we envisage how games may progress in this century? If we consider that games were ‘born’ with PONG (Atari Inc, 1972), [32] this means that we may regard the medium as somewhere around thirty five years old. If we then think of film in the same terms and consider that the Lumiere Brothers films like L’Arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat (1895) are the starting point for film history (although there is a fascinating pre-cinema history, which is directly connected for at least twenty years before just as there is a fascinating pre-game history), then thirty five years into the history of film reaches to about the end of the 1920s; a time when the cinema made considerable changes, which were to consolidate its status as the defining medium of the twentieth century. Is there the slightest possibility that the 21st Century could belong to the video game? Only a Pulitzer Prize winning film critic could say no.

Post Script

Michel Ancel returned to the Rayman franchise and worked as a developer on the Nintendo Wii project Rayman Raving Rabids (Ubisoft, 2006). He is rumored to be working on a sequel to Beyond Good and Evil. Peter Jackson is now directing the adaptation of the bestseller Lovely Bones (2003) by Alice Sebold. A video game adaptation seems unlikely.


Aarseth, Espen J. 1997. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Baltimore, Md., Johns Hopkins University Press.

Frasca, Gonzalo. 2004. “Videogames of the Oppressed: Critical Thinking, Education, Tolernace, and Other Trivial Issues”. In Harrigan, Pat and Wardrip-Fruin, Noah (Eds.) First person: New media as Story, Performance and Game. Cambridge, The MIT Press.

Gans, C. “Silent Film: Konami’s Silent Hill Fogs Up the Big Screen.” 1-Up, 17 February, 2006, accessed 2 May 2008, from

Gaudiosi, J. “Going Ape.” Wired 13(12), December, 2005, accessed 2 May 2008, from

Goodfellow, S. “King Kong. “Interpreting a Dream Using Active Imagination and a Film.”  

Jackson, P. “Rings Director Eyes King Kong”.

Jackson, P. “King Kong Game Contends for Game of the Year.”

Leyda, J. 1972. Kino: A History of Russian and Soviet Film. London: Allen and Unwin.

Perry, D. “Peter Jackson’s King Kong.”

Perry, G. 1974. “The Historicity of King Kong.Jump Cut, no. 4, 1974, pp. 11-12.

Poix, X. Viewed on 15th June 2007 at 3:37pm.

Radd, D. “Peter Jackson’s King Kong”.

Rosen, D. “King Kong Race, Sex, and Rebellion.”  Jump Cut, no. 6, 1975, pp.7-10.

Stallabrass, Julian. 1993. “Just Gaming: Allegory and Economy in Computer Games”. New Left Review 198, March/April, pp.83-106

Sluganski, R. “King Kong Review.”

Wilson, G. "Off With their HUDs!" Gamasutra.


Alone in the Dark (Uwe Boll, 2005)

L’Arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat (Lumiere Brothers, 1895)

A Shark Tale (Bergeron & Jenson, 2004).

Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)

Doom (Bartkowiak, 2006)

Elephant (Van Sant, 2003).

Existenz (Cronenberg, 1999)

Fatal Attraction ( Lynn, 1987)

The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)

House of the Dead (Uwe Boll, 2003)

King Kong (Cooper and Schoedshack, 1933)

King Kong (Guillermin, 1976)

King Kong ( Jackson, 2005)

The Lady in the Lake (Montgomery, 1947)

Lovely Bones (Jackson, 2008)

OldBoy (Park Chan-wook, 2004)

Perfect Stranger (Foley, 2007) 

Resident Evil (Anderson, 2005)

Return of the King ( Jackson, 2003)

Silent Hill (Gans, 2006)

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (Lucas, 1999)

Terminator 2 (Cameron, 1991)


Alone in the Dark.  Infogrammes. (1992)

Beyond Good and Evil. Ubisoft. (2003)

Call of Duty. Activision. (2003)

Doom. Id Software. (1992)

Enter The Matrix. Shiny Entertainment. (2003)

Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer. Take-Two Interactive. (2007)

The Godfather: The Game. Electronic Arts. (2006)

Goldeneye 007. Rareware. (1995)

Halo: Combat Evolved. Bungie Studios. (2001)

Halo 2. Bungie Studios. (2004)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  Electronic Arts. (2006)

Ico. Sony Computer Entertainment. (2001)

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Nintendo. (1998)

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.Buena Vista Games. (2005)

Little Big Adventure. Adeline Software International. (1994)

Meet the Robinsons. Buena Vista Games. (2007)

Metal Gear Solid. Konami Computer Entertainment Japan. (1998)

Pac-Man. Namco. (1979)

The Path of Neo.Shiny Entertainment. (2005)

Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie. Ubisoft. (2005)

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Disney Interactive Studios. (2007)

PONG. Atari Inc. (1972)

Project Gotham Racing 3. Bizarre Creations. (2003)

Rayman. Ubisoft. (1996)

Rayman Raving Rabids. Ubisoft. (2006)

Spiderman 3. Treyarch. (2007)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Ubisoft. (2007)

Young Sherlock Holmes (Levinson, 1985)


[1] Ebert, R. Chicago Sun Times Nov 27 2005.

[2] Gorky, M. Quoted in Leyda, J. Kino: A History of Russian and Soviet Film (London: Allen and Unwin, 1972) p.407.

[3] Roger Ebert continues, offering some conciliation, “A video game could also be a serious work of art. It would become so by avoiding most of the things that make it a game, such as scoring, pointing and shooting, winning and losing, shallow characterizations, and action that is valued above motivation and ethical considerations.” However the attributes he connects to video games are of course almost identical to a large portion of many contemporary mainstream films, but one doesn’t consider the cinematic medium less of an art form because most of the films being made aren’t very good, just as one shouldn’t consider games as not an art for the very same reason. Quote from Ebert, R. Ebert, R. Chicago Sun Times Nov 27 2005.

[4] Gans, C. Interviewed by Shane Bettenhausen. Viewed April 27th 5:35pm.

[5] Jackson, P. “Rings Director Eyes King Kong”. Viewed on April 21st 2007 at 10:18pm.

[6] Miyamoto is the creator of Mario, Zelda and Starfox franchises for Nintendo. Raynal is famous for Alone in the Dark (Infogrammes, 1992) and Little Big Adventure (Adeline Software International, 94) franchises.

[7] Jackson, P. Quoted in “Going Ape” Gaudiosi, J. Viewed on April 21st 2007 at 10:36pm.

[8] Holson, L. New York Times. October 24, 2005.

[9] This information was presented by Douglas Lowenstein in his Sate of the Industry Address at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2005. He continued to recount how Price Waterhouse Coopers reported last year that video games will overtake music as the second most popular form of entertainment by 2008.

[10] Information found at Viewed on 15th June 2007 at 15:06 pm.

[11] See Julian Stallabrass “Just Gaming” (1993) for an allegorical approach to gaming narratives.

[12] The only other games to frequently receive this kind of proliferation have all been based on films. For example: Meet the Robinsons (Buena Vista Games, 2007), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Ubisoft, 2007), The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Buena Vista Games, 2005).

[13] As a humorous aside, the game won the "Most Long-Winded Game Title" in the Dubious Honors category of GameSpot’s Best of 2005. Information found at Viewed on 15th June 2007 at 3:21pm/

[14] Rosen, D. “King Kong Race, Sex, and Rebellion.” Jump Cut, no. 6, 1975, pp. 7-10.

[15] Perry, G. “The historicity of King Kong.Jump Cut, no. 4, 1974, pp. 11-12.

[16] Goodfellow, S. “King Kong. Interpreting a dream using active imagination and a film.” Accessed at 15th June 2007 at 7:51pm.

[17] Hunter, S. Washington Post December 14th 2005.

[18] Perry, D. “Peter Jackson’s King Kong”. November 25 2005. Viewed on 15th June 2005 at 3:21pm.

[19] Of course this fails to account subjectivity and experiential theory based on gender, age and race etc but as we won’t take these factors into account in the analysis of the game this can be omitted.

[20] Peter Jackson is perhaps the wrong director to choose when suggesting films are substantially shorter than games on the perspective of length, as his last four films are considerably longer than the norm. The original cut of King Kong was 188 minutes and the director’s cut which was released at 201 minutes. He also released director’s cuts of all three films from the Lord of the Rings trilogy: all of which had almost an hour of material added.

[21] This is a technique being employed more frequently these days. The Godfather: The Game (Electronic Arts, 2006) game takes this even further.

[22] Jackson, P. Quoted in “Kong is King for Ubi” Radd, D. Viewed on 15th June 2007 at 3:37pm.

[23] Poix, X. Quoted in “Kong is King for Ubi” Radd, D. Viewed on 15th June 2007 at 3:37pm.

[24] The notable exception to this rule is The Lady in the Lake (Montgomery, 47). Orson Welles planned a version of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness from this perspective too. Interestingly the film version of the game Doom features an elongated homage to its source material with an extended several minute long P.O.V shot.

[25] Holson, L. New York Times.
October 24, 2005.

[26] Sluganski, R. “King Kong Review.” Viewed on 15th June at 3:51pm.

[27] Wilson, G in Gamasutra. Off With their HUDs! Viewed on 15th June 2007 at 3:55pm.

[28] This is not a completely new technique games have been experimenting with this for a few years. Ico did this and was also applauded for its immersiveness. The Call of Duty series has removed health bars from the games. Project Gotham Racing 3 (Bizarre Creations, 2005) has an in-car view which simulates a real in-car view.

[29] There is interesting work to be done on the evolution of digital characters on screen from a performance perspective one might begin with Young Sherlock Holmes (Levinson, 1985) via Terminator 2 (Cameron, 1991), Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (Lucas, 1999) and Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro animated opposite each other in A Shark Tale (Bergeron & Jenson, 2004)

[30] Some films have famously had their ending hanged during production or after testing. If a character tests particularly well or badly he or she will either be killed off or left alive. Fatal Attraction (Lynn, 1987) audiences demanded the character be killed at the end. The recent Bruce Willis Halle Berry turkey Perfect Stranger (Foley, 2007) reportedly had three endings to stop anyone guessing the identity of the killer, the end result was reportedly so poor it seemed that nobody cared anyway.

[31] Jackson, P. “King Kong Game Contends for Game of the Year.”

[32] The date for the origin of any art form is of course contentious, my personal belief is that while PONG is, for many, the first official ‘game,’ it is not the first narrative game and therefore perhaps it would be more accurate of us to date the ‘birth’ of games somewhat later.


Terence McSweeney is a writer and PhD candidate at the University of Essex, England where he is about to complete his PhD on Andrei Tarkovsky. His academic interests are diverse, from Soviet Cinema to the Legend of Zelda and from pre-Mesoamerican cultures to George Romero. He is the co-editor of the upcoming volume ‘Memory in Contemporary Global Film’ with Amresh Sinha (NYU). He lives and works with his family in London.

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