How a fake Martin Scorsese movie became a real video game

Don’t talk to me unless you’ve seen Goncharov (1973).

beelzeebub
Updated: 
Originally Published: 

Video game adaptations of movies don’t have a good reputation. While there are some that manage to do justice to their source material, more often than not they fall short of expectations. Goncharov is different.

The cult classic Martin Scorsese film from 1973 also got the adaptation treatment, letting players put themselves into the “greatest mafia movie ever made”. There is just one problem — Goncharov is not a real movie. Not that a small detail like that will stop the currently running Goncharov Game Jam on itch.io.

Beginner’s guide to Goncharov (1973)

You may never have heard of Goncharov, the forgotten magnum opus of renowned director Martin Scorsese. Despite having a cast filled with Scorsese’s usual crowd of collaborators such as Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Gene Hackman it was snubbed at the 46th Annual Academy Awards in 1974 and has fallen into obscurity.

At least that is the story of Goncharov in one universe. In another, Goncharov is a fake movie that has taken Tumblr by storm after the release of a fake poster. This is our universe.

The story of Goncharov begins in 2020 with a Tumblr post of a pair of knockoff boots with the misprinted movie name Goncharov on it. More recently artist and Tumblr user beelzeebub posted a movie poster inspired by this fake movie.

Tumblr has taken Goncharov and turned it into an on-going experiment in which people post quotes, scenes, fan art, and critical analysis of the movie rapidly building out the story of the film and its production. Centralized resources like a fake Wikipedia page or the Goncharov Gospel are great places to start your dive into this ever-growing rabbit hole.

The latest edition to the mythos of Goncharov is a game jam on the indie platform itch.io. “Interactive Fiction is often a way to explore alternative paths in a story, to look at different ways events might play out, so it's kind of a perfect fit for a story without a central canon like Goncharov,” Autumn Chen, the game jam’s organizer, told Inverse via e-mail.

The jam’s submissions span interactive adaptations of scenes from Goncharov (1973), Works that analyze Goncharov (1973), games about the meta-story surrounding the creation of Goncharov (1973), or anything else that involves Goncharov in some way.

The Goncharov Game Jam includes adaptions, meta-commentary, and critical essays on the fake film.sophiades

Peak interactive fiction

The Goncharov Game Jam runs until December 5, and already has five submissions that range from interactive essays to fangames inspired by the movie.

Although Goncharov began on Tumblr it has already spilled out into other corners of the internet. Archive of Our Own, a fanfiction site whose user base is heavily tied to Tumblr, has over 450 works under the Goncharov tag. Even the New York Times, which mostly ignores coverage of the internet and fandom culture, has written on the phenomenon. The game jam on itch is just the latest platform that Goncharov has jumped to.

The Goncharov Game Jam will be another brick that builds the world of Goncharov.

“I think part of the reason Goncharov has taken off on Tumblr is that it's the culmination of so many things the community there already loved - shipping, subtext, headcanons, and so on, without the burden of a real canon,” says Chen, “It provided the perfect balance between vague and specific, which is where fanfic thrives.”

Goncharov itself is already a piece of interactive fiction. It is a game. The goal is to build out the details of this fake Scorsese movie, which is accomplished through the mechanic of individuals posting their own additions and partaking in a communal building of fandom. It is a distillation of the experience of fandom and internet culture. But to continue the metaphor of a game, there is no fail state.

No addition is wrong, because there is no objective truth. While there are many things that are generally agreed upon, including specific scenes or thematic interpretations. None of them are facts. It relies on the improvisational nature of Tumblr culture in which you roll with a joke and build it out to its absurd conclusion.

Goncharov is many things: a game jam, a forgotten film, an internet in-joke, and perhaps the best interactive piece of media in 2022.

This article was originally published on

Related Tags
Share: