Wednesday, January 18, 2017

EDITORIAL: Video Game Movies and the Future of the Genre

Assassin’s Creed is out and by now you probably realize that most critics really don’t like the film and most of the audience find it adequate at best. This was meant to be the year for videos game films, but both Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed got generally lukewarm responses. So what is it? Are video game movies destined to fail? Are they simply not meant to be translated to the silver screen? That is what most people are saying, especially coming out of Assassin's Creed.

Here is where I disagree with the majority: I think video games are a hidden gold mine but studios just don’t understand how to mine them. I want to shift over to another genre to give examples from, comic book movies. We live in a great time for comic book adaptations, where studios are giving us obscure adaptations like Guardians of the Galaxy and Suicide Squad. Your opinions on the films aside, these films are making money and they have a fan base. But if we look at the history of comics, the first modern comic book to be released in the United States was Famous Funnies in 1933. The first successful comic book movie, both critically and financially, was Superman: The Movie, released in 1978. That’s 45 years after the first comic came out. Some of you may look at Famous Funnies and say that is a comic book, however when we think of comic books now we think of superheroes. So what we’ll use is the release date of 'Action Comics #1', which is 1938. 'Action Comics #1' happens to be a Superman comic. Between the two new dates are 40 years.  

If we do a quick check for video games, even though video games do trace back to 1950s, it wasn’t till around 1983, where the consoles came out, that people truly immersed themselves in video games and start to explore this new medium. It’s been 34 years since 1983. I’m really getting wrapped up in the numbers and that’s because I’m trying to drive home a point. The medium of comics took a long time to fully develop to become into what it is and video games hasn’t had the same time to fully achieve it’s potential. Also it took the kids who read comics to grow up and say “I want to make a movie about these characters I love” to truly make films that were great.

Even if you didn’t like Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed, you can still admit that they are better than most of the video games that came before them. That could be just luck, but I think it’s more. I think studios are getting close to solving how to make a video game movie. They are starting to adapt them by recognizing the interaction in video games plays a lot to our emotional attachment and if they want to achieve that they will have to change the source material to correctly fit the medium of film.  

The new wave of video games have really put an effort on trying to tell great stories. The one everyone uses as an example is 'The Last of Us,' which many consider the pinnacle of storytelling in video games. Truth be told, this is very recent development. In their early days, video games were more about the interactive experience than the story. There was a story there, but it was not a priority. It wasn’t until the mid to late 90s that games started to focus more on story. Video games started to become a great medium to tell stories.

I believe that when the next generation of filmmakers will be the ones who grew up with video games. They will recognize the stories and truly understand the medium of video games. They will be the ones who are truly passionate and the ones who will say: "I want to make a movie about these characters that I love." Adapting video games into movies is not the same as adapting novels or comic books. The new wave of filmmakers will be the ones that know how to successfully adapt this new medium. 

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  1. Comprehensive and to the point. Video Game Movies will have their time, but not just yet.

  2. Nice article man. I hope sometime down the line, we do get fairly well made video game movies. There are just so many good premises.