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Why is it so difficult to make video game film adaptations?

Movies based video games have a fraught past. From the goofy live action Mario Bros movies to the more modern and highly divisive Assassins Creed film, the level of success has not been high or constant for that matter. For the piece you could research a short history of some prominent video films and their failings, as well as any successful video game films, and give some insight on why the movie industry has such a strong disconnect from the gaming world.

Is it because studio execs don’t think the gaming community wants movies based on their games? And do they?

How does this relationship compare to the relationship between books and film? Why is it so easy to adapt a book but not a video game into film?

One could be quick to jump to the idea that it’s simply economics: studios don’t think the video game adaptations will make money. But this all changes in 2020, with the video game market being worth more than film and sports as of recently. Video games are where the money seems to be, so why aren’t these films put in the right hands with the right funding?

  • I think one reason for this may be that the broad details of the video game’s plot aren’t fixed, whereas, in a novel, theatre script, or even a manga, it very much is. In this case, things would start to delve into a discussion of the script writer’s abilities as a creator of plots, as opposed to an editor. From here questions for an article can take a number of different directions. – J.D. Jankowski 7 months ago
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  • Additionally, video games are designed for you to be part of the action while movies are designed to have you be an observer. Some of the sequences that make video games really exciting don't translate as well to film. Character development in games may happen over 10 to 20 hours in a game like The Last of Us, but films only last 2 or 3 hours. – Sean Gadus 7 months ago
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  • I think the biggest struggle lies with the familiarity of the characters. The adaptation of a book into a movie is almost easier because despite the idea we have of the character in our head, they have yet to exist in a visual format. We haven't see or heard from them, we only imagine what they would look or sound like. Video games are more challenging to adapt because we already have a reference to work from. The character has a face, and someone has already spent a painfully long time developing their voice. It's hard to imagine them as anything but what they already are, so no matter how much money a studio puts into the movie, they have a lot of work to do just to break away from the preexisting conceptions. – Nello 5 months ago
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  • The thing with video game storytelling that is so difficult for film to get right is that the nature of the medium is inherently interactive and nonlinear, whereas film (sans really a few examples throughout history) is not actually interactive and is linear most of the time. You as the film viewer have no leverage in determining what route the film goes down, whereas in videogames the player can often be just as much of a storyteller in the process. Granted videogame film adaptations were fraught with problems since their inception, and most of those examples were adaptations of mostly linear games with little to no branching storylines and narratives. I think the problem there is in the transcription of a game world to a cinematic one. For example, the Super Mario Brothers film works too literally in translating the game's characters and events, making the primary antagonist a grotesque humanoid. Perhaps then the problem is a team of filmmakers not working directly with the source material and understanding its vast array of storytelling; the director of Warcraft, for one, seemed to just work from the given world and randomized a story he thought would cast as wide of a net as possible. I think it's entirely possible to make a good film adaptation of a video game, it'll just require a sophisticated and detailed approach, along with some luck for good measure. – Thatboyd 5 months ago
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  • video games are far more immersive (in my opinion) so it just makes it difficult for a film to have that same pull – moonchild 4 months ago
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