One of the things that people seem to kind of take for granted are all of the little choices throughout a movie or a game. I recently had the pleasure of watching a movie called Sunset Boulevard for one of my classes. Admittedly it wasn’t a movie I probably would have ever watched on my own but it turned out to be an exceptional movie. While the plot wasn’t necessarily anything special, the characters really carried the entire film. However, throughout the movie it was blatantly clear that every little choice that they made was done with purpose. They even acknowledge that perhaps the plot isn’t necessarily outstanding in the movie in a very off handed way. But I want to talk about one thing in particular in the movie that struck me as an amazing choice that most people even today don’t really consider; none of the doors in Norma Desmond’s mansion had doorknobs or locks. Now this is explained away in the film in that Norma can become suicidal at moments so it was recommended by doctors so that her butler Max could get to her in just such an event.
From a practical standpoint this works. It may seem a little odd but with that being the case the doors lacking a way to properly latch or lock starts to have meaning. The second choice with the doors is that every door is a double door. Which once again in a mansion doesn’t seem very odd. So now what you have are a bunch of doors with empty sockets where a doorknob might otherwise exist. With all of these factors it suddenly creates an effect in the movie itself what look like hollow eyes staring into the room. It’s a small effect but it’s unsettling enough to really lend something to the overall feel of the movie. Even things like the lights being on or off behind the doors suddenly matters. It was just one of the little things that really helps make this movie a phenomenal piece of art.
Great games often achieve similar effects by really making the world come alive. The Last of Us for example has a small interaction within it that most people didn’t even know existed. There is a scene where Joel and Ellie are walking through a toy store with a couple of new companions. One of them is a young man about Ellie’s age (around 14) and picks up a tour on the floor which he’s promptly told to put down. Ellie will pick up this toy to give to the boy again later but only after absolutely nobody is looking at her because she doesn’t want to get in trouble. If you quickly turn back around you actually will see the final part of the animation of her picking up the toy. Now since nobody was supposed to see the animation, you would never really think it mattered. But just by adding it in and making sure she did it while no one was looking it suddenly makes the world more human for those who do see the motion. The game is a masterpiece for a multitude of reasons, but this small choice contributed brilliantly to the overall whole.
No matter what you are making, just always remember that every little thing matters. Especially the things you don’t think matter at all.