The Next Matrix

Recently I found myself often discussing the definition of what is a successful movie / book / game / pie recipe. Here is the thing. Avatar was successful right? It cost a fortune but it made quite a few fortunes in return. A lot of people saw it. It even started this whole 3D fad we have to endure now.

But then some dude comes around and compares it to The Matrix. Now I don’t really have the numbers but it’s safe to assume that Avatar made much more money than The Matrix. If you have the numbers, go smart-ass on me. Even though it made more money than The Matrix I would argue that Avatar pales in comparison. Yes it was a financial success and yes many people saw it. But The Matrix didn’t just made money. It contributed a great deal to our culture.

The Matrix defined the cinematography of action movies in the years to come. After Matrix no other movie could come out without Bullet-Time or at least some form of Slow-Mo. But it goes beyond simply movies. In a presentation at last Clash of Realities Bernd Diemer from Crytek singled out The Matrix for finally making programmers look cool. Of course, it set new standards for fashion but it also introduced new ideas we associate with programmers and hackers, permanently changing the way we would perceive them. Perhaps the simplest way of measuring this cultural impact is to simply look at the memes, spoofs and memorable quotes from the Move: “Red Pill, Blue Pill”, “Woah! I know Kung-Fu”, “There is no spoon”, “Welcome, Mr. Anderson”, the whole concept of “seeing trough the code” and many, many more.

With that in mind. What do you remember from Avatar?

*The sound of crickets* “I guess there were those blue guys. What did they call them again? Navi or something? Yeah, there were cool.”

Even if Avatar was such a huge success financially, the only thing it brought us was 3D. The movie itself was well-made and hit all the right spots emotionally but I didn’t leave any significant mark on our culture.

Here is the same test with a different recent Movie. What do you remember from Inception?

Aaah, now we’re talking! Being in Limbo, dreams within drams, that scene where the world curls up, “getting the kick” and so on. I mean, even the Music:

My point is: even if Inception didn’t make as much money as Avatar, it’s much closer to being a new kind of Matrix than Avatar. But of course, measuring success this way is much harder. However, I chose to do it anyway. Because I’d much rather work on a games-equivalent an Inception than on an Avatar.

What’s your suggestion for the new Matrix.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

5 responses to “The Next Matrix”

  1. SebWuepper

    Avatar had a comparatively weak script.
    Nice banter but not meat in the dialouges.
    I think Avatar is more akin to being the new Star Wars without the cultural impact.
    It does spawn a lot of weird fans who soil scifi convention toilet seats with their blue bodypaint alright.

    A new Matrix is hard to pull off.
    Just like a new Terminator (that isn’t part of the franchise) is hard to pull off.
    Inception featured a ton of fairly neat ideas, but it’s by far not as influential popculturally as The Matrix ever was.
    But coming up with another scifi / fantasy movie that is widely influential across it’s own scifi / fantasy niche is hard.

    For what it’s worth, I fear Twilight is indeed the Matrix of our time.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Yeah people say that a lot about Twilight. I would argue against it. While there is a cultural impact, it doesn’t really set any benchmarks in cinematography. Also, I doubt the movie would have been so successful without the novel.

  2. Jack

    Thanks for saying what I remembered from Avatar for me. All these questions you were asking DID get me all a-flustered, I probably couldn’t even have remembered what those big blue watchamacallits in the movie were myself.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      To be honest I had to look it up as well.

      And yeah, I apologize for answering my own rhetorical questions. It’s a figure of speech that is spreading like a wildfire.

  3. Kevin

    world gross
    avatar : $2.78B
    matrix series: $1.63B

    production budget
    avatar: $237M
    matrix series: $213M


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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