Every now and then you hear about some big name director attempting to take on a film based on a video game. As of now, there still haven’t been any that have received universal praise. This isn’t helped by the fact that one director keeps on making them without any effort.
One of the major reasons as to why films of this kind fail like this is because of the nature of the game. Putting aside the visual novels, which are in a category of their own, most games fall into two categories. One set of games tend to have little to no plot such as a lot of platformers or first person shooters. So in order for the writers to fit everything into a blockbuster film, they have to improvise and make things up. The other set, such as role playing games and adventure games tend to have way too much story to tell within the confines of a blockbuster. And to top it off, a lot of times the film makers don’t get why a game appeals to its fans, and end up just using the characters and scenarios, and possibly mechanics, but the adaptation loses the appeal that made the fans fall for the games in the first place.
But funny enough, the devoted fans of video games steps in. While lacking in funds to make big budget hour and a half feature films, they devote a whole lot of effort and care into their work. Let’s just get to examples. Minesweeper: The Movie is a from CollegeHumor, and blends elements of war films into a comically serious trailer. It mocks the game mechanics and even the basic premise, all the while in the tone of a military flick. For example the commander asks the main character why he is there. At first he says he’s there to make the place safe, but when pressed further he gives the reason why we play the game, because we are bored.
There are a couple of more of the same kind, but let’s move on to more serious efforts. Portal: No Escape takes the already fleshed out story of Valve’s Portal and adds its own interpretation. This one sucessfully represents the bleak nature of being a test subject within Aperture Science, maybe even showing a more darker side. A hope spot is given where it looks like she does successfully escape, but it turns out for naught.
Another possible explanation for the lack of good films featuring games is that videogames is an emerging art, and the gaming generations has yet to bring forth filmmakers, and those already in the industry tend to not have high opinions of the medium. However, I believe we are getting there. Series are a good way to start. They get to tell stories in chunks, without being restricted by time.
For exhibit A, I present the series There Will be Brawl which is dark intepretation of the characters featured in the Smash Bros series of Nintendo. It combines dark tones of stories such as Watchmen and Silence of the Lambs with references to the Nintendo games through plots and mechanics. Very impressive, but it seems to be a one time thing from this creator.
Now machinima is a great way for people to tell a story without needing to spend countless hours drawing or rendering animation or film. The biggest one out there currently is the Red vs Blue series by RoosterTeeth, which pretty much has been officially endorsed by Microsoft. They take the game feature of being able to record replays in the Halo series, and record their own stories. Then throw in amazing choreography by one Monty Oum, who is known for his own fan videos Haloid and the Dead Fantasy series, and you get some really impressive scenes and animation outside of the game.
Finally, a pair of YouTubers Sam and Niko of CorridorDigital have been making several videos related to video games, with the most recent one being an immensely impressive video on DayZ of all things, neatly titled After DayZ. With no story to start with, and a limited budget, they manage to captivate viewers into caring about the protagonist and his attempt to survive in Chernarus through a combination of awesome writing and a lot of willing volunteers. It successfully showcases the tension in meeting others in this wasteland by showing several different reactions players have with others already in the alpha build of the mod.
I believe that eventually, this generation will be able to make films that represent the elements in a game that appeal to us, and will become respectable as a film genre, as well as video games themselves becoming a respectable art form. There are a whole lot more examples that I could show, but I think that its enough.