Friday, January 24, 2014

Movies That Should Be Games - Paul Blart: Mall Cop

Writers of any media form get their inspiration from various experiences and taking in the experience of watching an action-packed movie is a good way to get inspiration. When you watch a movie you soon understand the flow of a story in general and you take notice of all the little details that go into a story. You will eventually realize that you can't take even the little details in a movie for granted because the audience will take notice of the little things and they will hang on to them. Movies of better quality allow the audience to engage in the environment of the movie and to embrace the plot of the movie once it is established.

Entertainment and action are often juggled from hand to hand. A heroic character taking action is one who is going to do something about the situation at hand and is one who is going to try to change the situation the best way possible. More often than not heroic characters take action into their own hands when the oppressive forces of evil become too overwhelming for the innocent parties. When a hero's back is up against the wall he will not just stand there and do nothing. A hero will turn up the volume and disrupt any plans that the villain is attempting to have executed perfectly. Movies execute these scenarios quite well and the same can be said for video games considering they have the right plot to work with.

As for the movie I am going to talk about, while it does feature plenty of action-packed scenes and is worthy of being called an action-packed movie, I am going to admit that Paul Blart: Mall Cop isn't exactly the same kind of action-packed movie compared to that of Lethal Weapon, Die Hard or Dirty Harry.

This is a movie where the main character does take his job seriously and he is in a position of taking care of a community building, but the comedic appeal of Paul Blart: Mall Cop is what brings the story up to a level that makes it entertaining and worthwhile. If you would just look at the appearance of Paul Blart the character you would know what to expect from a guy who has a seemingly cartoony mustache. For those who have watched the movie, viewers realized just how off the wall and silly the Paul Blart character actually was as he performed stunts that didn't go exactly according to plan and sometimes he failed miserably to be the hero that he envisioned himself to be as a mall security guard. You just had to laugh at these moments but you couldn't help but be sympathetic towards the big guy at the same time.

So how do you translate Paul Blart: Mall Cop into a video game? 

To be honest, we have a solid setting for this hypothetical Paul Blart video game and it's the West Orange Pavilion Mall based in New Jersey. Paul Blart's territory is the mall that he protects as a security guard and there's really no need to deviate from this territory. A mall is a very creative foundation to build on in game development because it allows the development team to implement any kinds of stores to represent the mall. The mall is a canvas for the development team to paint on and depending on what kind of variety the mall has, gamers will most likely be attracted to the spectacle of the mall set in the video game world.

One scene in particular in the movie features Paul Blart being preoccupied playing an arcade game and then eventually realizing that he needs to go to work, so it would definitely make sense to have a a video game store in this version of the West Orange Pavilion Mall. In fact, it could be made essential for Paul Blart to search through the mall to find either money or arcade tokens to gain access to special mini-games that are not dependent on the main game. Other items that Blart might want to acquire would be different attires, ranging from various security guard attires to random and miscellaneous attires that have nothing to do with being a cop or a security guard. Simple stuff such as this adds to the entertainment value even in minimal ways.

The means of transportation for Paul Blart in his own video game would be a very fun topic to tackle for the development team because as we know from watching the movie that Blart likes to travel on his Segway, a scooter-like device that takes pressure off the legs and is overall a smooth ride. It is easy to see the Segway having specific gameplay mechanics that are easy to learn and we could treat the Segway like it's a racecar in some aspects. We can hold down on one button to speed up the Segway and the turning would be smooth just like a normal car. Paul Blart can get around the mall using more than one transportation device. We can picture Blart using a skateboard and get some hang time once he hits a ramp. We can also picture Blart using roller skates or roller blades to reach a specific spot in the mall to hide from the bad guys. The imagination can run somewhat wild with this.

Then we have the fact that Paul Blart has a physical weakness which happens to be hypoglycemia. This may not be the same as Superman being made weak to kryptonite but we would have to apply similar logic to the security guard protagonist. Throughout the mall we could place all sorts of sugary items to help Blart continue in his journey. We would have a wide variety of snacks that contain sugar strategically placed in spots where the player has to figure out how to reach given the abilities of Paul Blart. For example, Blart might have to climb up a fake palm tree to collect a donut or he might have to climb up a Hello Kitty castle to collect a bag of M&M candies.

The impact of hypoglycemia could be felt if some sort of Sugar Meter is implemented to represent Blart's stamina. If the Sugar Meter is low, then we could use beeping sounds to warn the player that Paul needs to collect sugary food items or else he is in trouble. If the Sugar Meter goes empty, then the game is over and the player has restart from the last save point. When it comes to an actual Health Meter, though, that would have to be separate from the Sugar Meter to avoid confusion. Paul Balrt's Health Meter would probably have the visual representation of a candy bar, divided into 4 parts at the very least. After taking four hits Blart goes down and there would be specific sugar food items that he can collect to avoid losing all parts of the Health Meter.

When it comes to structure and progression in the game, we could establish a system where parts of the West Orange Pavilion Mall are blocked off in the beginning of the game, meaning that Paul Blart would only have one part of the mall to work with at first. We could provide Blart with a list of missions that he needs to accomplish in order to clear one part of the mall and unlock another part of the mall. Let's use an example and say there are 7 parts of the mall, ranging from the core of the mall that customers go through to the back rooms where only the employees station themselves. The parts of the mall are blocked by the bad guys and Blart can only gain access to another part if he completes each mission and defeats a group of henchmen in a boss battle, but of course using the silly comedic tone to wrap around the action.

For gameplay mechanics, Paul Blart is anything but a super athletic guy. He isn't fast nor is he agile. He isn't a strong specimen nor is he skilled in any kind of fighting form. However, because of the personality that he has been given, we get the feeling that Paul Blart would be a great underdog kind of hero that gamers sometimes look for, so we could allow Blart to have an amazing amount of endurance and resiliency. Just when you think you have the big guy down, he gets back up and comes back for more. We could employ a feature that allows Paul Blart to improve his stealth skills if he performs a certain set of moves correctly. The stealth skills for our security guard wouldn't be of a serious tone but more of a slapstick comedy tone where we would get to see the amusing facial expressions of Paul Blart.

As for the plot of this game, it doesn't have to exactly fit the same tone as the movie. While the movie's plot of an organized gang of criminals who disguise themselves to fit in with the holiday theme barge in and take control of the mall would be the practical way to develop the game's story, we don't have to follow this formula step by step. If anything, we could up the ante and have two separate gangs of reckless thieves who think they are smarter than what they really are try to take over the mall at the same time, forcing Paul Blart to look over his shoulder for one gang and then look over his other shoulder for the other gang. The time of the invasion also doesn't have to occur on Black Friday. We could scale back the calender and have the invasion take place around Independence Day. Comically, we could have Paul Blart do his best to do his American duty and we could apply Independence Day jokes to the scenario.

Finally, narratives and dialogue would fit the cinematic style, staying true to some of the elements of the original movie while still standing out to be its own thing. It would be a nice touch to let Blart use witty one-liners to counter the intimidating words of his foes, even if the one-liners don't particularly fit with the situation at all as long as the comedy hits the spot. During a tutorial session we could have Blart mess around and come up with jokes that wrap around his training as a security guard. While the dialogue would be funny, it still has to be informative and lead the player through the gaming experience.

I believe a Paul Blart video game would go over well if it gives the player enough things to do. Sometimes with games that have comedic concepts, they tend to cut things short for whatever reason, but I think that is often a mistake development teams make with comedic games. Replayability should still be a factor and just like I mentioned earlier, having a video game store in this fictional mall would be ideal. You could store your mini-games in that store and go back there to have fun, just like Paul Blart did in the movie.

This concludes a trip to the West Orange Pavilion Mall. We hope your enjoyed your time checking it out!

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