Video Game Adaptations Have Started to Walk but Need Time to Run

In Short
  • As adaptations are slowly becoming an everyday affair, the steam for them is slowly picking up.
  • In the past, most video game adaptations have had a bad track record of consistency in quality and storytelling.
  • However, as better adaptations launch, that scenario is slowly changing. In the future, we can expect more quality adaptations.

Being a gamer isn’t limited to just video games anymore. A thought I’ve been pondering for quite a while is a subject many gamers avoid – video game adaptations. With live-action game adaptations slowly becoming the norm, we have had reveals like the Borderlands movie trailer and even the Fallout Series. This is happening as most studios want a bigger piece of the pie. And while I do believe some adaptations are slowly becoming popular, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Don’t know what I mean? Let me explain.

The Not-So-Stellar Video Game Adaptation Track Record

If I’m being totally honest, most video game adaptations suffer from one common issue: they are derivative adaptations of the source material. That inherently isn’t a bad thing, as I do believe if a writer wants to improve something, they should be able to.

Resident Evil Afterlife video game adaptations
Image Courtesy: Resident Evil Afterlife

However, the intent behind improving is almost always misguided. Most video game adaptations simply want to become AAA Hollywood products. This naturally means losing part of the actual source material and shedding the identity of what makes it real. Again, this isn’t a bad thing if you maintain the balance between creativity and money-grabbing.

Unfortunately, we haven’t had a stellar track record for video game adaptations. Some classics tread the line of the “so-bad-that-it-is-good” category, leaving memorable footprints behind. Iconic movies like the 1995 Mortal Kombat popularized the theme of the series. Or, the nightmare-inducing Super Mario Bros live-action movie. There are multiple examples out there.

Image Courtesy: Mortal Kombat 1 (1995)

However, those are just a few examples of the movies I like. Sooner rather than later, I was introduced to vapid, shallow adaptations with no thought or love put into them. An excellent example of this is the Uwe Boll’s filmography. It is still a mystery to me how he managed to get the license for the adaptations. I was never a fan of those series and never will be.

So, Why Are We Fumbling?

Ultimately, video game adaptations fail because of the same problem. The issue remains that most of these translations try to differentiate themselves from the source materials. If we look at the history of the many video game adaptations, we can see that they have always had this problem.

Image Courtesy: Assassin’s Creed (2016)

It also doesn’t help that the actual beauty of video games lies in player agency. This works because because you, the player, can do your thing without judgment. As is expected, translating that into a movie can and will be tough, as it removes that tailor-made approach. And while that’s not a problem for normal movies, it’s definitely one for adaptations.

Want examples? I’ll give you some. Take the Assassin’s Creed and Paramount Halo Series. The Assassin’s Creed movie was a brand-new story set in the game’s universe. However, the makers derived so much from the plot that it lost its identity. In the end, not only was the movie’s plot story confusing, but it couldn’t fit itself into the universe.

Image Courtesy: Paramount Halo

In Halo’s case, it picks up the settings and the characters fans have grown up with and throws them into another version of the source material in the worst way possible. Paramount’s insistence on Master Chief showing his face, adding a human in the Covenant forces as an agent, the entire lovey-dovey scene. My list of complaints only kept growing, and the series’ second season did not help its case at all.

There’s Still Hope

However, while everything isn’t fully dandy, things are changing for video game adaptations. Years ago, when announcements of a new adaptation were announced, everyone’s immediate reaction was a sigh of annoyance. Now, that sigh is slowly changing into relief with the hopes that things just might be getting better.

Image Courtesy: Arcane

Many recent adaptations have left a positive mark. Sonic movies are full of soulful experiences. While each movie might not perfectly represent the source material, they do a solid job of respecting the video game series.

Image Courtesy: Netflix Castlevania S4

Similarly, the Castlevania anime takes necessary liberties with the series, possibly resulting in one of the greatest four seasons of adaptation.

Image Courtesy: Max/YouTube

The perfect example here would be The Last of Us series on HBO. It is a 1:1 recreation of the first game. However, the series creator’s involvement, alongside the producers, helps to make that show. The series still follows the actual storyline from the PlayStation exclusive, except the team expanded upon the existing story, fleshing out the characters. And that did wonders for them.

With the Borderlands movie coming out this year and the Fallout series due to land next month, I have my hopes in check. At the same time, I hope these upcoming shows and movies continue the precedent set for good video game adaptations.

However, for this endeavor to go well, we will need strong communication between writers, developers, and studios. The journey of video game adaptations is like people on a ship. As such, everyone needs to work together, lest we all drown.

So, what are your favorite video game adaptations? Let us know in the comments below.

Comments 2
  • Prathamesh says:

    You left out sonic which is actually a good video game adaptation

    • Sampad Banerjee says:

      I might not have talked about it extensively, but I do acknowledge how the Sonic movies are good adaptations.

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