Friday, December 04, 2009

Hulu Recommendation Friday: Gotcha!



In 1982, Steve Jackson Games released Killer: The Assassination Game, a game many consider to be the first "live action role playing" game (LARP). The game was the first serious attempt by a professional game company to provide a full scale set of rules for "Assassination Games" in order to facilitate more entertaining play. Games like "Assassination" or "Cops and Robbers" can become heated affairs without the establishment of firm and agreed upon norms for play and a consistent means for arbitration of disagreements. This is exactly the niche that Killer was able to fill. The game is still available as a pdf from Steve Jackson Games and even if you never intend to play a game, it is an entertaining read.

1982 also saw the release of the motion picture TAG: THE ASSASSINATION GAME. In this film, starring Linda Hamilton and Robert Carradine, an "Assassination" game goes bad. When reigning champion (Bruce Abbot) is killed under humiliating circumstances, he breaks and decides he needs to raise the stakes and play The Most Dangerous Game. The film is difficult to find on video, but it perfectly captured the 80s concerns regarding gaming and obsession. A large part of the 80s culture wars were the constant discussion about whether role playing games, or violent games like "Assassin," could corrupt the minds of the young and turn them into psychopathic killers. TAG: THE ASSASSINATION GAME is a film that plays on those fears.

In response to these kinds of concerns, more recent editions of the Steve Jackson Games version of Killer have included the following disclaimer.



While TAG: THE ASSASSINATION GAME is near impossible to find -- VHS copies average $90 on eBay -- for the time being, you can watch the film on Google Video.




GOTCHA! (1985) raised the stakes of "Assassination" games in a very different way than TAG. Where TAG represented the fears associated with the 80s Culture Wars, GOTCHA! is a comedy that plays off Cold War narrative tropes. The protagonist in GOTCHA! is as obsessed with "GOTCHA!" as the villain in TAG was with "TAG," but the skills he learned while playing the LARP end up serving him well when he gets caught up in the world of espionage. Anthony Edwards is wonderfully naive in the film, and Linda Fiorentino is enthralling as the seductress/spy. GOTCHA! lacks the sophistication of Stanley Donen's classic CHARADE, another film where an innocent gets caught up in the world of intrigue, but it is wonderful popcorn entertainment.


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