The Deranged Rantings and Rambling Screeds of Myuphrid the Dracolupe

It's pronounced "mew-fridd", incidentally


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Video Game Adaptations: A Theory/Proposition
Whoop-de-Myu
myuphrid
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?

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I think a fundamental part of the problem comes from video games and movies being completely different beasts. While a video game seems immersive and wonderful to the player, most video games feature long stretches of wandering around and non-plot-driven action, whereas movies thrive on direct conflict and lashings of interaction between people. It's why, despite an epic last act, Super Metroid wouldn't work as a movie if adapted directly; it would be two hours of watching someone run around shooting things.

Looking at a list of video-games-turned-movies, it's apparent there are more misses than hits. The Street Fighter II anime is pretty amazing, setting the bar so high that it was all the more disappointing when the live-action Street Fighter took the challenge up like Danny Butterman trying to follow Nick Angel over a garden fence. (You're not the only one that can make references to Pegg/Frost/Wright properties, you know!)
Even seemingly strong properties like Tomb Raider fell oddly flat, and that was vastly revised from the games in an attempt to make it into an actual story.

Metal Gear Solid, oddly enough, hasn't made it to the screen, and from what I remember basically all you'd have to do is cut back on the ethics lectures and compress the story a little (not difficult, given that the main reason it's a long game is that you frequently have to run back to the beginning of the game to retrieve the weapon you need to progress in the narrative.)
The main obstacle, to my thinking, in adapting a game is that the necessities of paring a story to its essentials end up removing bits die-hard fans love but add nothing to the narrative.

The mini series idea is an interesting one; after all, comic books seem a medium better suited to video game adaptation than movies precisely because they allow for a bigger scope that can unfold at a more sedate pace. Certainly, Sci-Fi's Wizard of Oz re-imagining/sequel 'Tin Man' feels like it could be a multi-character video game along the lines of the original Fear Effect. There's more room to develop characters and build in a more epic scale of pacing that a two-hour movie doesn't allow, and in that way you could produce a far more faithful adaptation of a game.

Of course, it is also worth noting a franchise example that completely goes against the point you're making: the Resident Evil movies get more enjoyable the further they diverge from the storyline of the games, and I'd argue a mini-series sticking faithfully to the games would lack the budget needed to pull off some of the more complex creature effects.

Well, the example I had in mind was Mass Effect. I don't know if you've played it, but I think an adaptation of it would play out like a sort of mixture of Star Trek and Firefly, perhaps with a bit of Star Wars thrown in - a group of seemingly mismatched friends and allies with their own motivations and backstories, cruising around a mysterious and mostly untamed universe in the newest and sexiest starship in the galaxy, on a mission to save civilisation from something really rather evil.
In fact, I thought it might be good if the adaptation were animated, probably in CGI. Anyone who's seen the game would probably agree that it looks good in that artform, and there's already plenty of recorded dialogue to use, what with the source material being so talkative.

I suppose in the end, it all depends on how much spare shelf-space the fans have.

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