Tron: Legacy hits theaters on December 17, 2010, 28 years after the original movie debuted. As a geek, I'm giddy beyond comprehension. As a storyteller, I can't help think the name -- Legacy -- holds more than one meaning.
While this is a discussion about video games and not movies, it's hard to separate the two when we're talking about Tron. Let me explain:
Tron's origin story has been told often in the last three decades. Executives at Walt Disney Productions green lit the film -- a mix of live-action and computer animation -- in hopes of capturing the zeitgeist of the nascent computer culture slowly seeping into homes across the country. While the use of computer animation was groundbreaking, the story was not. In truth, the film came and went without much notice as movies oftentimes do.
For most films, that would be the end of the story. But not for Tron. Because games in1982 were reaching the zenith of popularity: video games in arcades and console games in homes. It's through these games Tron became a cultural force, one of the first transmedia properties that gestated in the geek game culture -- the one so often dismissed as simplistic and culturally devoid of artistic merit -- where fans, gamers and storytellers cultivated the world when Hollywood wouldn't. Where you could become the movie.
Bally Midway's video game Tron (the video clip on this page) hit arcades the same year as the movie, as did Mattel's Intellivision console game Tron: Deadly Disks. These two games placed players not within movie's universe, but some extended alternate reality.
The next few years saw the release of an arcade sequel, Disks of Tron, and two more Intellivision games Tron Maze-a-Tron and Tron Solar Sailer. Those games, too, faded from the mainstream. As rumors of a big screen Hollywood Tron sequel ebbed and flowed throughout the years, gamers continued to build out the world they'd grown to love. They built "pirate" versions such as the Light Cycle game Amegetron Advanced.
By 2003, Buena Vista Interactive released a first-person shooter computer game, Tron 2.0, widely considered the sequel the original film would never have.
And that's the legacy of the games and geek culture that kept Tron alive when Hollywood and Big Media didn't. The saga is at beginning of a kind of storytelling that stretches across different mediums with different authors -- some professional, some not.
Tron is quite simply part of the foundation of the Geek Canon: a world that is part film, part game and part us.