Personally, I love watching movies and going to the theater. Aside from gaming, it’s one of my favorite past times. But why can’t my favorite games be turned into movies? Well, obviously it’s not a novel idea. It’s been done before with mixed results. Some game-to-movie conversions have worked out decently while others have been complete disasters. Still, given recent advancements in graphics and the similarities between how movies are written and video game stories mimic novels and scripts, it might be time for film studios to take another chance at the challenging task of adapting video games into fully fleshed out movies.
As I mentioned, there have been some terrible disasters when it comes to adapting video games into movies. Two excellent examples are Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter. Both movies have scored less than 4 stars out of 10 on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB). Essentially, both moves had awful plot lines (some that didn’t even follow the original video game plot lines… simply sacrilege), terrible acting, and dry dialogue. These movies were beyond suck and not even worth the effort. Of course, these aren’t the most modern examples, but they were Hollywood’s first attempts at making video games into movies.
Fast forward a little further to a few years ago. Movies such as Resident Evil and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time have been relatively big successes. Part of this success: improved acting, original or improved storylines, more pulse pounding action, and less dry dialogue. It could be too that with more time, better and more interesting game titles provided a greater appeal to gamers as well as general audiences. Improvements in technology and CGI probably played a bigger role as well. Still, with a game as timeless as Mario and with even the technology of the day, there was no excuse video game movies couldn’t have done better.
But considering the games we do have now and the massive advancements in graphics technology, it’s about time to this genre came into its own. For a few years now, gaming companies have been producing mini web episodes before initial release or to compliment newer content releases. Blizzard is a perfect example. Blizzard has one of the best cinematography departments I have ever seen. This leads me time and time again to ask “Why hasn’t Blizzard just made a movie yet with this kind of graphical design and scripting?” At the very least, companies like Blizzard need to at least explore the possibility and ask gamers as well as general movie attendees if a video game movie is wanted or would be a hit. Ubisoft (another company like Blizzard that actually has its own movie production department), which is behind making Prince of Persia, should start moving in the direction of producing film adaptations for their other successful video games. Assassin’s Creed would be a top choice. There are so many great games out there that could become great movies.
Now there are two adaptation styles video game movies can follow. They can either be live action or animated. Personally, I favor the animated over the live action. The benefits of animated movies are 1) the ability to use graphics from the game, 2) the continued use of character voices from the game, 3) greater imagination and creativity on the part of writers, and 4) ability to put storylines not normally found in a game into a movie that still feels like the game. Animated movies just tend to be much closer to the original game. Also, there is no replacement for original voice acting which is key to any game series or franchise. The benefits to live action are 1) making the game come alive with real actors and real action and 2) lower costs due to less graphical design. With live actors, the game becomes real on the big screen, and though it still may be fiction, the action and dialogue feel much more genuine. Also, less time and money is spent on graphical design making the film more viable for a film studio to produce. Bottom line: Live action feels real, but animated remains true to the original.
All that being said, there are some drawbacks of making video games into movies. The most notable among these is the personal factor. Video games are usually meant to be experienced firsthand or in first person; controlled by you, the gamer. They aren’t necessarily meant to be watched in third person. Without the ability to influence what is happening in the movie, any gamer in the audience would be more frustrated with what’s happening on screen since he can’t control it. Secondly, most video game movies tend to be modified from the original storyline or plot of a game, even if it’s only a little. Deviating too much from the original game will frustrate many long time fans, while not changing anything at all will lead to fewer general audience attendees interested in watching a movie that isn’t just a video game being played on a big screen.
While video games tend to do well on their own, I believe they would do much better with a movie counterpart. Many games already have written novels or mini-movies that explain and draw out more detail of a game then what video game writers only hint at in a campaign or single player mode. Movies have the potential to fill in gaps in time that a game leaves out. They also have the possibility of attracting moviegoers into playing a game they wouldn’t have normally been interested in playing before. And if none of that is appealing, at least it’s an excuse to get out of the house, but still enjoy your favorite games outside your gaming dungeon.