Are Movie Adaptations of Games really Needed?
Have you ever finished a great video game and went “wow, I wish they made a movie out of this”. If so, you are not alone, many successful video game franchises have been adapted into movies and few of them turned out well…Hardly few. Why video game sourced movies are always received terribly? What makes book sourced movies so good, let’s go deeper into this rabbit hole and see why this collaboration is challenging.
Movies are for viewing, Gaming is for experience
First off, movie viewing is a simple experience where you just sit in the comforts of your home or theaters and consume what is being shown to you, video games on the other hand, are interactive by nature, The players are involved with the game in every step of the way, they make decisions for their character, they suffer the consequences of their actions, they actively explore the world and everything it has to offer, it’s a unique immersive experience, that’s why they are so enjoyable. Meanwhile, you can only view movies.
RPG genre offers the best immersion in this case, you are playing as the character and are following their journey in their shoes, since they are so captivating they demand a lot of attention and time to finish it, this is the biggest hurdle a film maker has to overcome. To reduce the 40+ hours of immersive game play into a 2 hour movie, this task is very herculean, even if it is carried out successfully a lot of the source material has to be eliminated, this is bound for failure in the eyes of hardcore fans, this results in nothing but a hollow shell most of the times. Story rich games with huge lore and world building behind them are often victims of this, these games are held to a higher standard, so they fail to meet expectations with the fans.
The Way of telling stories is completely different
The scripts of video games and movies are totally different, video game story scripts are made by keeping in mind the interactive aspect and the various choices the player can have, the film makers can’t just replicate this kind of script or story board for the movies, the source material here can’t be directly transferred without eliminating the video game aspects. But book adaptations don’t face this fate as they are similar to movies where there is no interaction involved, the path is quite linear unlike video games where the trajectory is variable.
“One more thing which has to be considered by the film producers are the audience, movies have to be made with the fact that some of the audience may not be acquainted with the video game alternative.”
A non gamer will not know anything about the lore, the history or any other literary aspect of the game when they watch the movie, so to tailor the movie to them is a challenge, can you imagine? Bombarding a viewer with the entire back story of a game which takes a couple of hours into a small time frame? If you did, you’ll know how many details you’ll have to skip out and this leaves just a skeletal overview with no soul.
AAA titles normally have a lot of sequels and prequels which is just more information to process and compress for the writers. And of course if they plan to make a movie franchise of the same with multiple installments, there are lots of risks mainly the monetary aspect and scheduling multiple movies when you don’t know if the first installment of the movie will be received well or not. So producers go for the least risky route where they don’t have to suffer much losses and try to wrap up the entire game in a single movie and see how it will be received, depending on the reception, they may green light multiple installments of the movie. This is a conflict of profit and storytelling.
Even the ways they are made is totally different, the only common factor they have is the immense computing power which is required, movies with tremendous graphics need lot of rendering time to attain the final product which takes forever with unless a large number of computers are put to work, whereas games follow real time rendering where the models are rendered while you play the game which is dependent on your hardware, Depending on the quality of the product, larger staff has to be assembled.
Instead, this is being done and it is good
One thing which successful adaptations have done is adapting the video game into a TV show where aren’t bound by the constraints of time, which will allow them the time to flesh out the world and develop the characters over the span of the season and can stay as close as to the source as much as possible, The Castlevania series is a good example of this kind of production. Video game graphics adapted into live action gives the viewer a “something is not right here” kind of feel. The first impression is kind of thrown over, Even though CGI has advanced, an animated form of story telling the video game has its charm, Arcane (adapted from league of legends) and Cyberpunk Edgerunners (adapted from Cyberpunk 2077) have pulled out the best video game adaptations into TV shows by animated forms, Arguably the pinnacle of video game adaptations. Adapting only the world and lore and creating new characters which aren’t pressured to follow the developments in the game is an interesting technique some studios have adapted, Pokemon is the best example of this kind of adaptation.
Compromises must be made
I would like to end this by saying that a faithful adaptation which lot of fans seek with all aspects covered is a near impossible for a movie to cover, the mediums diverge too much, the best alternative one can see of a video game adaptation is in the form of a TV series with an animated medium, some compromises have to be accepted, they are different mediums for a reason.