Why Video Game Adaptations Don’t Care About Players

Anghus Houvouras on why video game adaptations don’t care about gamers…

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Do you know that game you love? The one where you poured hundreds of ours until your fingers ached? The one where you completed all the side quests, talked to all the NPCs, and read every part of the game’s story to better understand the world you were completely immersed in? Turns out they’re adapting it into a TV show for one of the eight hundred streaming services currently vying for your attention. And you know what? They don’t care if you like it or not.

Video game adaptations are becoming more common as studios and streaming services seek out recognizable intellectual properties to turn into movies and shows. In recent months there have been announcements of movies and shows based on the horizon zero dawn, The division, Super Mario Bros. Y dragon’s lair. the aura series just finished its first season and The last of us is scheduled to premiere next year.

The games industry is full of great storylines and amazing visuals that could easily be the foundation of an entertaining series. Unfortunately, gamers often find their favorite game adaptations lacking, citing a departure from the source material and a fundamental misunderstanding of the lore. But there is something that the vast majority of game enthusiasts do not consider when they talk about the live action version of their favorite video game;

They were not made for fans of the game.

In theory, it sounds crazy. Why would a studio invest money in a video game property if they have no interest in making the show or movie appeal to fans of that series? Let’s open the map, find the quest marker, and see where this journey takes us.

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It makes perfect sense that the harshest critics of video game adaptations would be fans of the series. They are the ones who have put hundreds of hours into the game. He spent countless hours finding each easter egg and finding items that teach them about the deep lore of the game. You have completed all side quests and talked to all NPCs. They have bought the merchandise. Read the novelizations. I’ve watched hundreds of hours of videos on the games discussing the tiniest details that most casual gamers don’t care about.

So when Hollywood calls, buys the rights, and openly declares that the writers and showrunners didn’t bother to play the game, it offends their sensibilities. How can you adapt a video game if you don’t even bother to play it or explore every facet of the fictional universe? The answer is simple.

Video game adaptations aren’t trying to win over fans of the game; they are trying to find new fans who haven’t played them. They are attempts to use the familiar elements of intellectual property to attract new viewers. It’s not unlike adapting a novel, comic book, or Broadway musical. The goal is to take something immensely popular and refashion it for film or television. The harsh reality is that the owners of these intellectual properties have already made money off the players. Now they are looking for new fans in new media.

The process of adapting a book, comic, musical or video game can be dangerous. Rarely do studios bother to obsess over the details like the most ardent fans. They are very comfortable strip mining the property for the most marketable items and doing whatever else is necessary to make the project a success. That can mean making sweeping changes to the characters, ignoring story elements entirely, and making complete changes to decades of established lore.

The one certainty with any adaptation is that it probably won’t impress the most hardcore of fans. Hollywood is very comfortable with this concept.

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take the recent Unexplored film starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, based on the successful Sony PlayStation franchise. From the moment the project was announced, fans of the game immediately began pointing out “glaring mistakes” made by the Producers.

“Tom Holland is too young to play Nathan Drake.”
“Why didn’t they pick Nathan Fillion?”
“Why doesn’t Sully have a mustache?”

The choices made by Sony for the film version of Unexplored it was designed to appeal to potential viewers unfamiliar with the game. While Nathan Fillion would have been a hit with fans, he’s not exactly the same blockbuster and current pop culture phenomenon as the guy who currently plays Spider-Man.

Unexplored is the perfect example of how video game adaptations are designed to attract new fans. You take basic story elements, borrow some action set pieces from the game, and pick top talent. there are parts of Unexplored that will be familiar to fans; like the cargo plane sequence used to open the movie and brandished on the poster. Those who have played the Unexplored Games will likely find the film adaptation of this sequence much less exciting. The film version will never be so immersive. But for those who have never picked up a controller and played any of the games, this might feel like something original and entertaining.

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In the Paramount+ polarizing series auraGaming fans constantly criticize the show for the moments when the Spartans remove their helmets. In a first-person game, where the player experiences stories through a character’s eyes, there is very little need to see the character’s face. But on a TV show, the audience can have a hard time connecting emotionally with characters whose faces are always hidden from the audience. You can spend all day discussing whether these options are “right” or “wrong.” Musical fans can spend hours correctly telling you everything that’s wrong with the movie versions of Phantom of the opera Y cats. These decisions are not always very smart and most of the time they do not turn out as intended. But once you simplify that these adaptations are made to appeal to a broader base than fans of the original, they make a lot of sense.

Those who guide these projects from one medium to another are making decisions based on what they think will attract new viewers. It is presumed that the established fan base of these properties is already accounted for. Fans of the game will no doubt see the aura show either out of interest or morbid curiosity. It is those who are not familiar with the franchise who are being sought after. If players are happy with the end product, that’s an added bonus.

Take what is possibly the worst adaptation ever: The Lawnmower Man. An adaptation of a Stephen King short story that took the author’s notable name and the fact that one of the main characters mows lawns and turned it into a 90-minute treatise on the dangers of technology with some of the FX work oldest and scariest from the 1990s. . That’s what studios look for when they adapt video games. They want name recognition and some cool visuals. They want the surface level items that can be marketed to new fans.

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What would be best for game fans is not to think of film adaptations as an extension of what they love, rather than the general representation of it. I think that’s the aspect most players struggle with; the belief that the movie or show is somehow the ‘legitimate’ iteration of IP. Something I refer to as ‘average envy’. This outrage is probably due to the fact that the mainstream media spends much more time and attention on movies and shows. There is still a level of prestige to film and the streaming services that media provides. Video games remain a medium viewed by old media as a niche, even though the games industry generates more than feature films and streaming services combined. Gamers and video game culture are still painfully misunderstood by the media clinging to visions of older man-boys sitting in dimly lit basements wearing headphones and still cited by crackpot pundits and hack politicians as the potential cause. of mass shootings.

So when Hollywood takes these popular games and tries to make them the next streaming phenomenon, fans of the game see it as an extension of what they love. When in reality, it should look like any other adaptation; a completely separate entity with only the slightest connection to what you love. The existence of a mediocre Unexplored movie shouldn’t diminish your enjoyment of gaming. It’s just a mass-market watered-down version of what you like meant for a completely different audience.

I think a lot of players would benefit from adopting this philosophy. The number of very popular streamers and creators who seem to be constantly scared by mediocre to abominable video game adaptations and their lack of adherence to the source material. Accept the fact that Hollywood adaptations aren’t meant for gamers… they’re meant for everyone else.

Anghus Houvouras

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