Forget The “What Ifs” Let’s Talk About Form ( A Revised Version)

Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s film, Gamer, is saturated with extreme depictions of violence and hypersexual individuals. Yet, there is more to the film than “T & A” and “what ifs”. The images of breast, blood, and attractive characters mixed with a substantial amount of ambiguity adds to the movie’s form. As a result of this, the film can better relate to the audience, especially those who call themselves “Gamers”. While Gamer proposes a concept about a society ruled by videogames, a focused should be placed on Neveldine and Taylor’s structure of the film.

An interesting aspect of this film is the lack of character development. Each character is simple. Kable, is a “good” convict, who I fighting for his freedom and family. Castle is presented to us as the typical bad guy who wants to have all the power in the world. Simon is the stereotypical teenager whose interest is primarily sex and videogames. Then we have the Humanz, who stand as the rebellion. And last, but not least, we have Terry Crews starring as “crazy guy” Hackman. Even at the larger level there is simplicity, you are a gamer, a character/pawn, or an outsider.

There is no complexity in the characters, and honestly, there is no need for it. Neveldine and Taylor could have easily built on every character but decide that it was unnecessary.



The best way I can answer this question is by providing an example.


Look at our blog site. Everybody is using a username instead of his or her actual name (excluding Dr. Fest and Steph Roman). Just like the real videogame culture, each person is known by his or her handle/username/gamertag. How are we to know that “BigDaddy69” is Jim from work or that “iloveunicorns” is Megan from class? Similar to the choppy camera shots, I believe Neveldine and Taylor used simplicity and ambiguity to support the authenticity of the film. As gamers, do we not hide behind computer screens and goes by our usernames? Do we not like to create characters that are different from whom we actually are? I know I do and I can’t be the only one.

It is also through Neveline and Taylor’s structure of Gamer that cements Kable and the other characters/pawns as a standing reserve. In “The Question Concerning Technology”, Heidegger warns us about the dangers modern technology brings when we allow it to dominate our life. He understands that new technology is not helping us discover our true essence. Rather, he states that modern technology is making humans a “standing reserve”. Recall the moment when the two girls want to buy Kable from Simon. At this moment Kable is not seen as a person, but as an object or a tool to be used by others. This encounter illustrates that in this society, it’s not who you are, but whom you play as? You can be a successful millionaire but if you are terrible at games, you won’t be regarded highly. This society idolizes gamers like we do celebrities. In some aspects, we want to have the same fame or wealth of celebrities. But we can’t. To compensate, we might try to resemble them. Why else would we take so much interest in what they wear or endorse?


This society is no exception.


This is the reason why the two girls offer to buy Kable from Simon. They want the same recognition that he has and the only way to do it is by obtaining Kable or other famous characters. This process results in game characters’ human essence being stripped away. No longer are they human beings instead they are property. They are nothing more than trading cards (Pokémon cards if I had to guess); collected and stored by one competitor to win a battle against another competitor.


Neveldine and Taylor’s decision to flood Gamer with simplicity, ambiguity, extremes, and choppy camera shots were all part of an overall mission to add authenticity an impactful message to the film. While they could have easily created a cliché narrative gamer film where there is a hero fighting for righteousness, they took a different route. The route where the form and message of Gamer were essential to make this film connect with the audience.

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5 Responses to Forget The “What Ifs” Let’s Talk About Form ( A Revised Version)

  1. ttakoushian says:

    I particularly want to respond to one part of your post where you talk about humans becoming standing-reserve and how that causes a loss of knowing what it means to be human. I had a similar stance in my post, however I have to disagree with one point you made. You wrote, “The trouble with this is that Kable, like many others in this society, do not understand what it truly means to be a human. They lack the morality, decision-making ability, and emotions that come with being a human.” I disagree with the idea that in the film, Kable is the character who has lost the ability to truly know what it means to be a human. While he is in the prison, he is a fully functioning human, capable of morality, decisions, and most importantly, emotions (as we see when he thinks of his family). It’s important to note that while Kable is essentially a cyborg because his brain is wired with technology, he still remains human because he sheltered from the societal influence outside the prison. He has know idea how the community is reacting, across the globe, to his actions — or rather, Simon’s decided actions. He is still determined to get back to his family and diffuse back into the “real” world, or what he thought it was until he finally became exposed to the simulations after breaking out. On the flip side, I like to think that it is rather the controllers, such as Simon and the man in the electric wheel chair, who have lost what it means to be human. They might not be the ones wired, loosing their ability to make decisions, but they have lost the essence of humanity through playing God in seemingly virtual reality, that is a true reality to those in the simulation.


    • blueshoes324 says:

      You provide a great reply to my poor clarified blog. I agree that Kable does possess the human essence but only towards the end of the film when he is completely free of Castle’s control. But up until that point I felt like everyone in society was devoid of human essence, except for the Humanz, but I consider them to be outside of society.


  2. mjp99 says:

    Do you think Haraway is arguing against cyborgs? I don’t think she is for or against them from a technological standpoint but instead finds them a useful tool to examine humanity, what it means to be human; the cyborg calls many things into question and blurs barriers, forces us to see ourselves from a different perspective, but I don’t believe she has a moral opinion on them.

    I think that you are right about the people cheering at the end – that it was not the death of Castle but Kable, their hero, winning the game. Arguably though can the society be blamed? In the film Ludacris blames the advent of Slayer to the penal systems bankrupting of the government, how it was sort of a perfect solution to both satisfy the public’s need for entertainment and eliminate a doomed institution. Moral excess or public chaos?

    It is incredibly dangerous when technology is turning people, physically and from a data standpoint, into commodities, or “standing reserve,” but we shouldn’t fear it either. When taken in conjunction with our own capacities, particularly the plasticity of the mind, technology could potentially bring us closer to our nature! We will have to wait and see..


  3. elexiusmusick says:

    I definitely agree with Mjp99 regarding Haraway’s tolerance of the idea of the cyborg. Overall, she seems to have a pretty hopeful perspective concerning them. From the second-to-last page of “A Manifesto for Cyborgs,” she writes that “Cyborg imagery can help express two crucial arguments in this essay: (1) the production of universal, totalizing theory is a major mistake that misses most of reality […] (2) taking responsibility for the social relations of science and technology, and so means embracing the skillful task of reconstructing the boundaries of daily life. […] Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to our selves.” She’s downright positive about technology, in my opinion, and sees it as a way to combat opposition to gender equality, and to provide more resources for those on the lower end of the gender and race (mentioned for intersectionality’s sake) hierarchical structure.

    In regards to Ttakoushian, I would say I have to disagree with you slightly about whether or not Tillman is truly “human” at the end. I find it interesting that the kill-shot, when he actually destroys Castle, is seen as the character achieving catharsis. Boss level defeated, mission accomplished, wrongs righted, time to go home. But the action itself was Simon’s. Simon is the one who killed Castle, not Tillman. The most important part of the movie (dismantling the dominating structure), and our protagonist can’t take the credit for it. So while he is technically human, and while he shows elements of humanity, I don’t think he represents human morality, ethics, or sense of justice. Simon, on the other hand, might. Simon, after all, is the one who tried to save the NPC in the beginning of the second on-screen battle, who stared at the figure of the woman crossing the street for much longer than is safe to do in the midst of a gunfight. Simon is the one who inevitably decides to hear what Tillman has to say. Simon is the one who gives him independence. Simon is the one who decides to kill Castle and achieve catharsis FOR his Tillman, his character. Simon is the most human person in the whole damn movie, and he’s a little shit. What’s that say about us?


  4. Steph Roman says:

    It’s good that you point to a specific moment of form: the two girls trying to buy Kable off of Simon. Your perceptiveness of Kable as an enframed example of standing reserve is particularly astute. But after that your argument becomes vague–try to read this scene closer. It’s easy to say that our society’s on the path towards this kind of thing, but that’s too general. What specifically about this moment makes enframing dangerous?


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