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Reasons that video game films can be a good thing

While many video game film adaptations have been sub-par in quality, video game films as a whole have the potential to do good, for both the video game franchise and for fans.

There has been a marked increase in the number of upcoming film adaptations of video games such as Warcraft, The Last of Us, Devil May Cry, and Mass Effect.  While some people are excited, quite a lot of fans of the games are experiencing the usual dread of how much the film adaptations will fail to be as good as the source material (which is absolutely fair).

As Nick Kairit, writer for Hardcore Gamer, says in his article on Why Video Game Film Adaptations Should Cease To Exist:

It’s difficult to capture the heart and soul of a 10-12 hour game and condense it to a 2 hour film, but then why even try?

With titles like The Last of Us pushing the cinematic experience, video game film adaptations have been rendered obsolete. 

However, there are still reasons that video game films can have a positive influence.

Film adaptations of video games are more accessible.

People who don't/can't play video games can still be interested in them.  There are a lot of games that are interactive narrative experiences, with rich stories that are compelling in and of themselves, such as The Last of Us, as Kairit pointed out.

However, not everyone has the money to make the financial investment in a console, or they have only one and thus are missing out on the games that are on other platforms.  Other people don’t have the time for it in their daily lives, restricted by their lifestyle, their job, etc. 

There are also people who aren't good at them, or at the very least don’t enjoy playing certain genres (e.g. FPS games, etc).

Comedian Dara O'Brian sums this problem up rather well:

I love video games for this reason over all other art form. They do a thing that no other art form does, right. No other art form does.

You cannot be bad at watching a movie. You cannot be bad at listening to an album. But you can be bad at playing a video game, and the video game will punish you, and deny you access to the rest of the video game. 

Many of these difficulties are why Let’s Play videos are so popular.  They allow viewers to experience games vicariously, free of charge without owning either the console or the game, without having to play it.  It becomes a leisurely viewing experience instead of a struggle (which not everyone is up for).

However, video games are designed to be experienced as games (naturally).  In a good game, the emphasis is healthily placed on gameplay aspects, with plot and cutscenes distributed evenly throughout.  

For instance, The Last of Us is a rich and incredibly cinematic game, but it is still designed primarily to be a gaming experience (specifically a survival horror game).  

If you are a viewer, you will either have to watch through around 18 hours of a Let's Play series to get the full experience (which works for some people and not others), or you could simply watch all the cutscenes, but you would definitely miss out on important aspects of the experience.

A film adaptation is meant to be a translation of the game.  Oftentimes fans are not happy with how this translation is carried out and it frequently does not do the source material justice.  However, it can still bring the experience of a game to an audience that otherwise might not have been able to access. 

Watching the film might even convince some previously uninterested people to purchase the game, which brings up the more business oriented benefits.

A film adaptation will raise awareness of the game.

While currently video games are no longer considered a niche market like they were in the past, film has been a central part of pop culture for far longer and is still more accessible to all audiences.  The advertisement campaigns for the film adaptation alone will get the name of the game out there.  

Of course, if the film is bad, it will not reflect well on the game, but bad films in general are a thing to be avoided since they benefit exactly no one.  'Bad' in this case meaning a commerical/box office failure.  The critical reception of the film is somewhat less important than the audience's enjoyment levels.  Even if the film adaptation is not good quality cinema, if it is entertaining, the video game franchise will benefit.

Thoughts?

I have often been frustrated with adaptations of books/games/comics that are important to me, so I sympathize completely with the concerns of fans of the upcoming video game films.  I don't want to discount the value of the potential that they have though.  What do you think?

Published Jul. 25th 2015
  • The Soapbox Lord
    Featured Contributor
    You can make a good movie out of anything.

    The thing is, when adapting an already existing story or art, you have to be respectful of what it is and does. Most game movies don't. They are cynical cash-grabs made by people who really don't understand their source material. How else did we end up with those godawful Mario and Street Fighter movies?

    I think some games would be better suited to a series of sorts instead of a two hour flick. Allows time to delve into the world and characters instead of rushing things along.

    If a movie has a decent foundation and people involved who enjoy games, it should turn out decent, if not good.

    I would love to see some games receive some film treatment of some sort, but the game has to fit with the constraints of film. Instead of trying to make a square puzzle piece fit in a triangular-shaped hole, get a property that fits.

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