As the title may suggest, I've been thinking quite a bit about adaptations of video games lately. In particular, I've been thinking about movies and their viability as a proper adaptation medium. The thing is, I don't think a movie is the proper medium for a video game to be adapted to, and I think history bears me out on that.
Part of it is story, I'd say. A movie needs a good story to work, otherwise it's just an overly fancy demo reel for the actors and effects artists who worked on it. When it comes to a lot of games, story isn't quite such a priority, and it's here that the major stumbling block arises. Sometimes the game doesn't really have much of a story to begin with (Doom, for instance, can be summed up in three words: "Monsters. Guns. Enjoy."), or sometimes the original story is kicked out of the nest in favour of something completely different. The result: either a simple tale of fun gunplay is turned into a convoluted mess with a tumescent plot, or an intelligent and well-written story becomes the host organism for a parasitoid beast of mindless action drivel that makes Starship Troopers seem faithful and well-researched.
Of course, this issue isn't insurmountable. There's an entire genre of games where story is a major focus: RPGs! They may be action-filled, of course, but it's essentially all a story where the author lets the player take care of the main character and the graphics artists take care of describing the environment. If a movie needs a goodly amount of story, then an RPG would have you covered.
Unfortunately we hit the same problem, just from the other side. In my experience, an RPG has too much story and gameplay for a movie. Por ejemplo, a reasonably full playthrough of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic takes about a non-consecutive day of gameplay, and even an old and comparatively small game like the original Fallout takes about six hours (assuming my Steam gameplay stats are anything to go by). So, after the movie-making process is done with, what you'd end up with is either an exceedingly trimmed-down skeleton of a movie that barely even suggests the larger world it inhabits, or a bloatedly lengthy saga that would expect audiences to sit still for an awfully long time (especially those who bought one of those small buckets of soda).
Granted, you could try splitting the script into several movies, but I think the idea that I intend to offer would offer a better solution.
That solution is this: a miniseries. Instead of trying to cram the whole game into a two-hour movie, you can instead script it out into hour-long chunks and create a series. This way, you can keep the meat of the story, along with plenty of the plot-supporting sidequests, and still create a watchable and maybe even enjoyable experience. It makes sense, I think, because it's similar to how one generally plays a game: you don't expect to play the whole thing at once (unless you're doing a marathon or speed-run), you play it for a bit, then save your game and pick it up later. It may not be quite as cinematic as a movie, but if that's a problem to you, then as Tim Bisley argues, "just sit closer to the screen".
Personally, I think this'd be quite a fun idea. After all, nerds do like their long-lasting series (Star Trek, Firefly and Thunderbirds, anyone?), so most of the fans would hopefully be happy. I for one would love to see Mass Effect or Fallout in DVD boxset form. How about you?
- Video Game Adaptations: A Theory/Proposition