Brian Colin could never have known, back in the early '80s when he was designing the game, that it would one day inspire a blockbuster movie starring the biggest actor in the world. He also could have never predicted that nerd culture would one day be obsessed with tracking down easter eggs left in movies and games, to the point that another blockbuster movie would be made about the inexhaustible quest. But Rampage, the classic arcade game that allows players to take out their animalistic rage on 8-bit urban architecture and infrastructure, has been a hit since it debuted in 1986, so Colin's prescience should come as no surprise.
So, here it is: Look right at the beginning of the original version of Rampage, when pixelated photos of people flash on the screen, the images of the humans that were turned into the giant ape, lizard, and wolf that wreak havoc on cities across the country. The three humans? Colin is the man behind the ape, George; his wife is Lizzie the lizard; and the game's head programmer, Jeff Nauman, is Ralph the wolf.
And as he explains in the latest episode of The Fandom Files, there's a deeper meaning behind the choice of each spirit animal.
"I loved King Kong; as an animator, I loved Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion. Godzilla made me so annoyed as a kid because it was a guy in a suit — don't hate me, Godzilla fans, I'm sorry," Colin explained, earnest in his mea culpa. "When we were talking about the third character, I did the math and realized we didn't have enough [data] for a whole third character, so we switched palettes and all I had to do is change his head. Jeff Nauman, the programmer, said, 'Let's make him a wolf,' and he named him Ralph."
Every choice they made in the making of Rampage was the right one, as evidenced by its three-decade staying power and the movie adaptation that stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and comes out this Friday. It's far from the only game that Colin created in his nearly 40-year career, which is still unfolding, but it is by far his most widely known and profitable. And while he's obviously moved on, he's happy to revisit that magical time in his life and take advantage of the new thrills it's providing.
Colin visited the Atlanta set several times and has a number of cameos in the movie, including a scene in which he's running away from George, the character he "based" on himself and has always played as when jumping on the joysticks of his own game. He can't overstate just how excited he was to be on set each time — he even got to meet the Rock — and admitted he was still smiling like a little kid months and months after the event.
"I mean, I hate to say this, but my kids' births used to be at the top of my list of things I'll never forget, but they may have been bumped to second place," Colin said, laughing.
Colin spent all day watching the production from just outside camera range, with such a smile plastered across his face that someone on the crew asked him to step back so as not to distract the actors. And while comparing the experience with the birth of his child may sound extreme, when you hear about his interaction on the set with the Rock, it's sort of hard to begrudge him any bit of excitement.
"He was saying wonderful things about the game, and I was saying wonderful things about him and the performance and the day I'd spent there," Colin recalled. "And then he said, 'But I do gotta say one thing: We're working our butts off here. We are giving everything we've got, and I'm just really working harder on this than anything I've ever worked on. And then I look out and see this guy with a big grin on his face' — and I thought, 'Oh no, he's gonna say that I distracted him' — but instead he said, 'and that made it all worthwhile.'"
Rampage, starring The Rock and Brian Colin, hits theaters on Friday.
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