Translating or Transforming? Video Games as Films

Ever since video games reached main stream popularity in the 1980’s the industry has continued to evolve. We have watched games evolve from squares on a screen to visual spectacles. Games today include cutscene cinematics and storylines that rival and even surpass those present in film. According to an article published in GQ magazine, video games have become a much more profitable industry than film making. There is a clear market for film adaptations of video games. So why do they fail every single time?

That question has many different answers. David S Goyer, writer for Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Rises believes that the critical failure of film adaptations of video games is the main character. According to him video games are immersive experiences with an emphasis on the environment. Most games do not have characters that are well written enough to carry an entire story on their own. This is a fair point. The Super Mario Bros. Movie was a colossal failure because it did not portray the characters correctly. Who is Mario? He’s an Italian plumber. What does he do? He jumps on stuff to save a princess. Can that premise alone carry a feature length film? Possibly. Can it do so better than the game?  Probably not.

Wreck-It Ralph was a resounding success in 2012, but despite its visual style, countless references, and cameos from popular video game characters it is not a film adaptation of a video game. In fact the game Fix-It Felix was created after the film as a promotional tool. It is a film about a video game character, not an adaptation. This approach works. Characters like Mario may not be able to carry an entire film, but the inclusion of various video game characters like Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter allows for jokes and easter-eggs that keep the audience’s attention. Forbes writer John Gaudiosi believes that the film is a journey through gaming’s history that should be judged on its own merit even though it is not a translated work.

At last Disney has found the formula to the successful video game film. Instead of adapting an existing work, create a new IP instead and incorporate cameos and easter eggs that will engage the audience and keep their attention. Oh wait… This formula doesn’t always work does it Adam Sandler? Debuting in July of 2015, Pixels instantly ruined the credibility of video game based films that Disney had worked over twenty years to create. I’ll let CinemaSins take it away from here.

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3 thoughts on “Translating or Transforming? Video Games as Films

  1. Katherine Bennett

    I really enjoyed reading this article, the set up was very nice and I found it to be quite informative. As someone who is not really into video games, this really gave me a better understanding about the industry and its evolution.

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  2. Renae Hatcher

    I really like the title of this post. After reading, I can definitely tell that you are not only very knowledgable on the subject matter, but you are passionate about it as well. It’s always nice reading posts where you can easily see the passion behind the writing. It makes it easy to follow, and fun to read.

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  3. kevinurban12

    I loved Wreck it Ralph! And I agree, Disney did create the perfect video game movie with it. Do you think we’ll ever see a film with a video game character with actual depth and complexity? I shudder when I think of the Tomb Raider movie…

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