Pervasive games are a text book example of life imitating art. Or games imitating art. There is a special relationship between pervasive games and films: often a cool activity has been depicted in a film and later viewers have decided to recreate this activity (or a non-lethal version of it) in real life. During the process of writing Pervasive Games we encountered numerous such films. Unfortunately there was not enough room in the book to dwell into each and every one of them. In this blog we’ll take a look at some of our favorites.
La decima vittima (The Tenth Victim), 1965
La decima vittima is an Italian science fiction film from the 1960’s depicting a society where it is possible to compete in a deadly game of hunter and victim. A person who survives five rounds as a hunter and five rounds as a victim win one million dollars – and the title of decathlete. This is the film that inspired the fembots of Austin Powers – and all the various Killers, Assassins and other Circle of Death games.
The film premiered in December 1965 and was seen around the world. According to folklorist John William Johnson the viewers were inspired by the film to start death games of their own and thus an oral tradition was born.
The rules of the hunt are explained in during the first five minutes of the film:
Rule 1: Every member has to commit to carry out ten hunts. Five as a hunter and five as a victim, alternating, each time chosen by a computer in Geneva.
Rule 2: The hunter knows everything about his victim: name, address, habits.
Rule 3: The victim does not know who his hunter is. He must locate him… and crush him.
Rule 4: The winner of every single hunt has the right to a prize. The person who comes out alive will be declared a decathlete. He will be praised and receive one million dollars!
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find that clip on YouTube – though there are numerous others – as it is probably the most relevant part of the film for a game researcher. At the moment it seems that the film is out-or-print on DVD and it isn’t one of those classics that pops up constantly on tv or at the local film archieve. Still, the film is definetely worth digging up. Not only is it relevant for game history, it is actually a lot of fun – sort of a camp version of A Clockwork Orange. Where else can you see sheep enclosed in a glass box used as a centerpiece in a stylish interior decoration? The future turned out to be such a disappointment…
The film, directed by Elio Petri, is based on Robert Schekley’s short story The Seventh Victim (1953). It features Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress in starring roles.
Those interested in the early evolution of Killer games should also check out episode The Death Game from the fifth season of television series The Saint. In it Simon Templar gets mixed up in an international society of death game players. The episode came out very soon after the premiere of La decime vittima and gameplay, rules and vocabulary shown in the episode is closer to the film than contemporary Killers.