Devs Creator Alex Garland On Why Video Game Movies Don’t Work (And His Favorite Animal Crossing Villager)

Alex Garland has garnered himself quite the reputation for sci-fi and horror fans with his dense and philosophical projects like Ex Machina, Annihilation, and this year’s Devs, his first foray into the world of serialized storytelling with FX on Hulu. Themes in Garland’s work tend to deal with things that provoke a certain sense of existential dread, like the nature of mortality and the ethics of artificial intelligence, so it’s really no surprise that the writer/director’s favorite video games tend towards the similarly weighty.

Speaking with GameSpot during the Play for All event, Garland spoke at length about his love for games like The Last Of Us and Dark Souls, the latter of which he managed to sneak in an Easter Egg for during an early episode of Devs. But he also came through with a surprise revelation–he’s a devout Animal Crossing fan and has sunk countless hours into perfecting his island, a hobby he’s picked up alongside his daughter who also plays.

And yes, he’s got a favorite villager. It’s Pompom the duck. We were just as surprised as you.

Garland is so dedicated to his Animal Crossing island that he manually created his daughter’s face for his flag–without using a QR code generator. “I very, very carefully drew it out with those little pixels,” he explained. Garland’s clocked over 300 hours in the game so far, and is confident that his island would stand up to the scrutiny of a tour. “My island would stand up to inspection on one of those Animal Crossing YouTube channels, I’m sure of it.”

Aside from his carefully curated island paradise, Garland had some strong thoughts on the nature of game adaptations in the realm of TV and film, and how the two mediums are not always necessarily compatible in terms of storytelling. He brought up 28 Days Later, which he wrote, and called it a “result” of playing Resident Evil, rather than an adaptation.

“In some ways you could say 28 Days Later is a video game movie–it’s certainly heavily inspired by them. But whenever people get intentional about [adapting video games], something seems to get lost in translation.” He continued, hypothesizing, “It could be that the licensing [for video game movies] is so complicated that it forces them to be a certain type of movie or a certain type of release, or a certain type of cookie-cutter approach–though that might be bulls***, thinking about some of the lower budget video game movies that have been released. I don’t think there’s a good reason that the industry has struggled [with adaptations] the way that it has.”

But he was quick to clarify that he doesn’t think that means the future is without hope. “As I understand it, HBO is working on a The Last Of Us TV show and those are people I would expect to get it right.”

As for Garland’s other favorite franchise, Dark Souls, he’s less confident about the potential for an adaptation, largely because of the mood and ambiance the Souls games tend to have. “The Dark Souls games seem to have this embedded poetry in them. You’ll be wandering around and find some weird bit of dialogue with some sort of broken song sat with a bit of armor outside a doorway and it feels like you’ve drifted into some existential dream. That’s what I really love about Dark Souls. These spaces are so imaginative and they seem to flow into each other and flow out of each other […] I can’t imagine how that would [be adapted]. The quality that makes Dark Souls special is probably unique to video games.”

While he may not see himself adapting a franchise like Dark Souls any time soon, he would gladly take the opposite approach and work in the games industry again in the future. He’s hopeful about making a return–and has been trying to have the conversation.

“There was a period in gaming, or there was a school of thought in games at one point that was very, very anti-narrative,” he explained, referencing his early attempts to break into working in the industry. “I tried a few times, but I think it was the wrong time to be talking about these things. The only time I’ve ever really worked on a game was with Ninja Theory and Enslaved, but I’d love to do it again. I keep waiting for the call.”

Devs can be watched in full with FX on Hulu.

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