Hollywood creative force Guillermo del Toro has had success across just about every medium, including directing blockbuster films like Pacific Rim and Hellboy, screenwriting The Hobbit Trilogy, and creating hit television shows like The Strain (which originated as a novel he co-wrote with Chuck Hogan and also spawned a Dark Horse Comic Book). But there’s one area where del Toro has had absolutely no luck in delivering a final product, let alone breaking through to an audience—video games.
“I have proven to be the albatross of video games,” del Toro said at San Diego Comic Con, where he was promoting Season 2 of the FX hit, The Strain, and his October horror film from Legendary Pictures, Crimson Peak. “I joined THQ [to make a game called Insane] and THQ went broke. I joined [Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo] Kojima [to make Silent Hills] and Kojima leaves Konami, so I have decided that in order not to destroy anyone else’s life, I will never again get involved in video games. Otherwise, I’ll work with someone and his house would explode or something, you know?”
And those two recent game projects account for just two-thirds of the troubles del Toro has endured with interactive entertainment. Way back in 2006, del Toro partnered with developer Terminal Reality to create Sundown. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 horror game was being designed to put players in the midst of a zombie apocalypse from the very beginning of the horror. From a 2006 Hollywood Reporter article (via Titan Productions):
Players will start as a typical person on an average day. As everything goes terribly wrong, in order to survive they must learn to form alliances with various beings and to change their role as each new challenge calls for different abilities. “We want to create a real beginning, middle and end to the game and to each set piece of the game too,” del Toro said. “I want to make some of the atmospheric elements in the game very, very scary.”
The plan was to launch with the game and then expand the franchise to film and television. But the game was ultimately canceled before a franchise could be born.
Then, in 2010, THQ announced a multi-year partnership with del Toro to launch a trilogy of horror games called Insane, originating on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. Developer Volition worked with del Toro, who served as external creative director on the project. Insane was also planned to launch as a game in 2013 before expanding to film. In 2011, del Toro told me that he wanted to take players to a place they have never seen before, where every single action makes them question their own senses of morality and reality. The game was canceled by THQ in 2012 and all rights reverted back to del Toro, who wasn’t able to get another publisher to pick up the game.
Most recently Del Toro partnered with game publisher Konami and famed game auteur Hideo Kojima to make a new entry in the aging Silent Hill franchise called Silent Hills. It would have starred The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus and had already drummed up significant amounts of hype thanks to an announcement that involved a “playable teaser” game (called P.T.) that players could download on their PS4s. But Kojima split with Konami this year after decades working together, and the entire project was reportedly scrapped.
“With Insane we mapped it out, we did the bible, we did the outlines, we did the screenplay,” said del Toro. “We did a bunch of stuff to develop the world. So some of the tricks, or the stuff that I wanted to learn, I learned. And then I went to the side of Kojima-san because he’s a master and I can gladly say we are friends and I love his work, and I will continue learning from him as a friend. But I’m not joining another video game. If I do, World War III will start.” When pressed again on whether the avid gamer will refrain from ever making a fourth attempt at making a video game himself, he remained adamant.
“No, never,” said del Toro. “I mean, it was an apprenticeship. I learned a lot from Kojima, of course, and I learned a lot from my experience on THQ. I did. It changed the way I see a narrative. We put two years of work on THQ with Insane. And what we were going to do with Silent Hills was going to be cutting-edge and scary.”
But that doesn’t mean he won’t ever be involved in game development at all.
“I’m open to having developers make games, and I can hopefully be creative about it and I can be educated about it and talk about it in a way that helps them make the video game, but no, I can’t make the game myself,” he said.
The director, who will next helm Pacific Rim 2, believes that franchise deserves a dedicated game. The first Pacific Rim film had a mobile game at launch. And with the success of The Strain on FX, there’s great opportunity for killing virtual vampires.
“I think The Strain would be very much an atmospheric game, where you have a city after the fall, and you’re left out on the street past curfew, and there’s the hint of things running around before you encounter them…making it very atmospheric, very creepy, so something like that would work.”
Del Toro also remains committed to playing video games. The master of horror met his match with Sega and Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation recently.
“I started the Alien game but it was too scary, man,” del Toro said. “I’m going to go back and play it, but my kids are not my wingmen anymore. They have their own lives. And it gets pretty spooky at night alone on the sofa, but it’s a really great, beautifully designed video game. I really must say that when a game is designed like that so beautifully visually with the audio surroundings perfectly calibrated, it’s very immersive.”
After a series of unfortunate events, del Toro says his fans will never experience his mastery in video game form. But there’s plenty of other mediums to keep them busy. It’s just a very sad day when such a great talent has been forced to give up his dream of creating the type of games he loves to play.
John Gaudiosi has been covering video games and entertainment for over 25 years and has focused on the convergence between Hollywood and games for much of his career. Follow him on Twitter @JohnGaudiosi.
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