Casting-couch potatoes unleash unholy revenge

It was dark and drizzling when screenwriter Justin Marks did what many in Hollywood have fantasised about during their bleakest career moments: he attacked his agent with a chainsaw.

Marks hunched behind a wall, revved the chainsaw motor and leaned forward. Next came the grinding, spinning sound of metal cutting through bone, the blood spattering, the agent's arm and head flying off.

Marks grinned, unsheathed a shotgun and went in search of his next target: a reporter for Variety.

Marks was just doing his job - kill or be killed - in the video game Gears of War, which he plays from the comfort of a chocolate-brown leather couch in his Los Angeles home.

Every Thursday night, he and dozens of other up-and-comers in Hollywood turn on their Xboxes to engage in violent killing, mock each other and sometimes even talk shop.

The online gaming session, which the organisers call nerd poker, has become an opportunity for networking that has led to dozens of business meetings - and even a few deals.

"While the aim was not necessarily to do business, I think the casualness and the lack of pretence made us all really close," said Kevin Chang, an executive at Misher Films.

"And who wouldn't want to do business with friends?"

Two years ago, Chang and Variety reporter Ben Fritz were discussing their frustration over the players who challenged them in Gears of War via the Web-connected Xbox Live service.

"It was a bunch of teenagers who were better than us, calling us names," Fritz said.

They called Marks and Derek Douglas, who is now a William Morris agent in the video game department, and the four decided to sign on for weekly gaming sessions together.

They began inviting friends, and soon dozens were showing up. The group now has about 95 members.

The ease in communication has turned gaming into a networking vehicle for some, and not just in Hollywood.

Church groups sometimes hold "Xbox Live" nights, families stay in touch through the games and people have even gotten married after meeting while playing, said Marc Whitten, general manager for Microsoft's online service.

"It's that couch experience - chatting around the game is as much fun as the game itself," Whitten said.

Still, chatting while deploying an arsenal of weapons to destroy one other is different from most Hollywood networking, which is often "of the boring, drinking variety," said Justin Wilson, director of alumni relations at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts.


Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter