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Kubrick as Chess Hustler, an introduction to the collaboration between storytelling in game design and film

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Kubrick as Chess Hustler, an introduction to the collaboration between storytelling in game design and film

Ryan Silbert

kubrick playing chess

My work at the Cinema Research Institute is focused on storytelling at the intersection of video games and film. Specifically my focus and deep interest is how each craft can inform the other as we enter a world where a tablet or phone has morphed into a mini-multiplex where you can swipe between your choice of entertainment multiple times a day. My work will focus on the practical elements of what designers, directors, programmers, and producers can learn from one another  in an effort to create both new collaborative narratives and advance our understanding of how creators interested in working in both mediums can find a common language.

To kick things off, I wanted to start my blog posts here by sharing a quote from one of the pioneers of modern cinema, Stanley Kubrick whose prophetic visions of the future in Dr. Strangelove, Clockwork Orange and 2001 still resonate today.

"You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand trembles to pick up the piece and move it. But what chess teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas."

Kubrick was not only a visionary storyteller, but it's astounding to see him as one of the first to identify the cross-collaboration possible between game design and film storytelling well before Pong was invented or players immersed themselves in the Mass Effect trilogy.

2001 Chess Scene
2001 Chess Scene

While it is widely documented that his nascent photographic eye was developed as a stills photographer for Look Magazine, less reported is that Kubrick was a an amateur chess player and hustled games in Washington Square Park. In fact, as this quote indicates, I would argue that his keen photographic training, paired with his careful understanding of the game of chess might be two of the key factors that would inform the creation of his filmography.

George C. Scott and Kubrick playing chess on the set of Dr. Strangelove
George C. Scott and Kubrick playing chess on the set of Dr. Strangelove