What a time to be alive. With no fewer than 17 video game adaptations currently in development with movie studios of various descriptions – seven of which have planned release dates – it almost seems as if someone, somewhere, thinks they have found the secret formula that makes these endeavours potentially good. Why else would producers continue to pour their funds into a genre that has previously delivered such gems as DOA: Dead Or Alive, Wing Commander, Alone In The Dark, Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun Li and, of course, Double Dragon?
Perhaps technology has a lot to do with it. Just as the technical quality of video games has increased exponentially in the twenty seven years since the release of Double Dragon, so film technology has also progressed in the two decades since the release of its film adaptation. It is not possible to create a great movie using only visual effects, however – a good story and script are also required. It could be argued that this has historically been the undoing of the video game movie adaptation – a point which goes to the heart of the problem of adapting video games for the big screen.
While games and film have increasingly begun to overlap as art-forms – with game visuals becoming more cinematic, more dramatic storylines being developed for games, and many high profile actors providing performances for various video games – there is a fundamental difference between the two, and that is intention. The sole intention of a movie is to tell a story, while the intention of a game is to achieve a specific goal through interaction with the technology.
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In gaming, storytelling is always secondary to the user experience – the actual enjoyment of moving through the game and achieving an objective. While the story is, for some titles, an important element, it is the gameplay that builds a loyal fanbase for games. The problem with making that game into a movie is therefore two-fold – the experience is necessarily reduced to a passive one, and the emphasis is shifted onto narrative, which then feels artificial and forced. Truly, even the greatest visual effects ever conceived cannot overcome those issues when it comes to movie-making.
So, the question becomes, how do we bridge the intimidating gap between these two creative arenas that are surely natural bedfellows? How do we make a film adaptation of a beloved game that will be embraced wholeheartedly by its loyal fanbase, while appealing to non-gaming audiences worldwide? In short, how do we make a good game adaptation film?
With a confirmed movie release slate that now includes Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed, Warcraft, Resident Evil: Rising, Splinter Cell, Ratchet & Clank and Angry Birds, there has never been a better time for the Film and Gaming sections of We Got This Covered to come together in their first ever crossover feature. Here, Sarah Myles, Michael Briers and John Fleury discuss those special ingredients that make up the video game adaptation secret formula, and try to determine what the projects of the future should learn from the projects of the past.