Half-Life. Portal. J.J. Abrams. Whoa.

Is there anything Abrams *isn't* working on?

By Nick Venable | Updated

This article is more than 2 years old


Whenever you hear about a video game being adapted into a movie, it’s only natural to check to make sure Uwe Boll and Paul W.S. Anderson aren’t involved. Even if those directors aren’t attached, it still takes a little time to warm up to the idea, especially when the video games in question are two of the most critically acclaimed ever.

The annual DICE Summit (Design Innovate Create Entertain) is being held in Las Vegas this week, and news that J.J. Abrams was looking to work with gaming giant Valve Corporation on a video game idea he had. Oh, and then there’s the small, unimportant detail that he and Valve president and co-founder Gabe Newell have also had discussions about the possibility of making movies out of Half-Life and Portal…

It hasn’t even been two weeks since Abrams was the center of one of Hollywood’s biggest stories in years, and now he’s attaching himself to two more fan-favorite properties. When will someone peel back his synthetic skin to reveal the android anatomy that makes him such a workhorse?

The keynote speech the two men gave was entitled “Storytelling Across Platforms: Who Benefits Most, the Audience or the Player?” and involved a deep conversation comparing the narrative techniques of video games and those of TV and film. Interestingly enough, each man used the work of the other to give an example of storytelling mechanics, with Newell pointing out that characters in Cloverfield should have left the camera behind, and Abrams using a YouTube video to point out useless player actions from Half-Life 2.

The talk was very interesting, and both Newell and Abrams are really on top of how characters are the viewers’ and gamers’ window into the story, and how important it is to fill their worlds with details that offer a different experience for everyone. In talking about Half-Life‘s silent main character, Abrams says, “Players are often asked to relate to empty vessels, characters that don’t communicate behavior in a way that you would. It’s as frustrating [as film] in a lot of ways, but at least in films we can have compelling scenes and dialog.”

He also shared his opinions on how Portal immediately draws players into the story:

You begin Portal with no sense of who you are. It’s an incredible mystery that pulls you forward. In a way, that whole game is about following that mystery and trying to understand who you are. It’s obviously very different than film, but the mystery that is GlaDOS compels me to move forward. The more you played, the more you learned, the more you felt.

Even though no details about Abrams’ gaming vision were shared, and nothing concrete was ironed out about these possible adaptations, these are two rumors whose importance can’t be denied. In fact, I’ve made a cake in celebration. I promise the cake is real.