A Game That Works

Cards from Jeff Watson's game for students.

Jeff Watson may be the Orson Welles of social media cinema. The Canadian PhD candidate at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts has devised a playful deception to entice freshmen students to enter the movie biz while they’re waiting to enter the movie biz. Watson has invented a sort of secret society centered on an elaborate card game. Here’s how it works.

Cards from Jeff Watson's game for students.

Like a game of Hollywood-style Texas Hold ‘Em, Watson deals out custom-made cinema-oriented cards printed with fragmentary instructions. A typical hand might instruct a student to make a music video, based on a failed love affair, featuring a teddy bear – or something like that. The student then teams up with other talented players and, presto, they whip up sometimes remarkable cinematic creations. As time goes on, Watson says, the deals become more complex, the teams become larger and the students earn more points. Points translate into movie-style treats such as tickets to exclusive screenings.

And all this takes place outside the classroom, long before some more stodgy faculty members feel the students are ready to sit in the director’s chair. To lend the activity a subversive underground vibe, Watson says he recruits by word-of-mouth only and has designed a sinister faux-political logo. With a sort of alluring simplicity, he calls the game “The Game.” Players follow their individual and team progress on a website, as they pioneer a new style of collaborative social media cinema. It may not be “The War of the Worlds,” but Watson’s “The Game” has apparently reeled in a hefty chunk of Hollywood’s next generation. He says 125 of the school’s 140 freshmen are playing.

Who knows? It may someday influence how media is made.