Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Learning from the Movies: Runaway

James Lileks once said "Nothing ages faster than yesterday's tomorrow." and in my experience this is true even in Sci-Fi gaming.

in fact the last "old sci-fi" that I saw that didn't age too badly was an obscure movie from 1984 ,Runaway written by none other than Michael Crichton and starring Tom Selleck.

Without going into spoilers other than its about robots, this old movie has held up very well .

Sure stylistic elements are slightly dated (clothes, retro-future cars, object shapes and the relentless whiteness of L.A.) however its telling that it is not set at any given time and could be set any 20 minutes into the future.

Now I didn't see cell phones but there was no point in the movie in which they would have been used anyway and I did see an I-Pad like device.

What really caught my eye was unlike almost any SF movie l everyone even the reporters seemed familiar and comfortable with the settings tech. That bit movie-wise is quite remarkable in many ways.

If I as a DM/GM could capture in any game fantasy or SF that casual sense of reality that you see in the movie, the familiarity with technology and such , well if I could pull that off (with player help) that more than even plot would make for a great game.

Its more than action and story but a sense of a world coming to life.

Its not easy but its well worth trying and a skill well worth cultivating and my next entry will suggest tricks to make it happen.


  1. A DM can capture the familiarity effect by having players that read printed materials and by not focusing on doo-dads beyond their presence unless a wrinkle in the campaign makes a item of technology different from others.

    Runaway as a film is just okay, nothing amazing as stories go but it does present a plausible enough sci-fi setting with characters that fit.

  2. Good advice JD.

    I agree in general sense with your assessment of the film.

    What makes it a good movie for me is a: I am a HUGE sucker for that sort of film and b: The film is nearly 30 years old (only a year younger than Empire Strikes Back) and for a hard SF film to hold up so long is unusual.