After one-too-many disappointing video game film adaptations, there are signs of hope this might all be about to change
Historically the relationship between video games and films has not always been an amicable one, with success mixed at best. While books and comics have been ripe pickings for films and TV series adaptations, transforming video games to other media hasn’t been as successful so far, but it feels like finally there’s hope this might change.
Whilst early video games didn’t have the most fleshed-out storylines, these days plenty of video games have engrossing and elaborate stories, often being a large selling point of the game, such as The Last of Us and Red Dead Redemption. On the face of it, it seems strange video game adaptions haven’t been more successful. There are many reasons behind why adaptions haven’t been as wide-spread or particularly successful, but one key one is the agency the consumer has. For video games, the consumer actively participates and invests themselves in the progress of the story, compared to the passive experience of watching a film. This can lead to a few different obstacles in adapting them; players experience of the game, and the story, can vary widely, with fans of the game who will have invested hours (many, many hours for some games) into the gameplay. This means there are higher stakes for adaptions, an existing set of fans who are highly invested and can potentially have very different views on how an adaption should be done. You are either going to delight or disappoint them, there’s no in-between.
Transferring something that is active to a passive medium while enhancing from the video game can’t be an easy task, as history proves. But while there are higher stakes for video game adaptions, and this could be seen as a risky move, if successful they could be a very rich and profitable source to tap into.
Often these story-led games are vast, 40+ hours game time compared to the ~2 hours film this would need to be condensed down into, and there are so many paths a film could take in terms of the story it tells.
The Next Chapter
There are signs of hope that this is beginning recognised, with more recent adaptations taking the route of TV series rather than movies, allowing the story the time it needs to evolve in this medium.
The Witcher, while still receiving some mixed reviews and not universally liked by critics, felt like a step in the right direction for adaptions and the viewing rates reflected that, being one of Netflix’s biggest shows at the time of release. It might have been the industry’s way of dipping their toe into the video game world, with it also being a book series, but it seems to have sparked a series of adaptions.
As with any sort of adaptation, the best ones come from a respect for and love of the original work. The announced adaption of The Last of Us gives hope that this is the case, with an actress in the video game being cast to play the same part in the series, something that has never been done before.
It’s not just adaptations that are on the rise; recently there has been an increasing amount of TV Shows/films which are about or incorporate video games and the gaming culture into them: Mythic Quest, Dead Pixels, High Score, Free Guy, even the Twitch parody scene in Bo Burnham’s Inside to name a few. All of these examples are not direct adaptations but are instances of mainstream media where gaming itself is a focal point and the main theme.
Video games are finally moving from being perceived as a niche form of entertainment to the mainstream, and this is being reflected in how the representation and adaption of video gaming in TV and film is changing. It gives me hope we might finally get some adaptions that give beloved games justice and allow us to delve even deeper into their worlds.