Since the dawn of video gaming developers have been making movie tie-in games, and for a long time (but moreso recently) movies have been made of video games. Whilst there very, very rarely is a decent game based on a movie, I can confidently say there has never been a good video game based movie.
You can guarantee that with every Pixar movie there’ll be a video game to coincide with it, with every Michael Bay piece of crap there’s a game for parents to buy their kids when they leave the cinema and visit Toys R Us, it’s a given that pretty much every box office hit will generally have a poorly produced game that’s been churned out for the sake of cashing in on a franchising. Simply put; movie based video games are the lowest common denominator.
As I said previously, there are rare exceptions to when movie based games turn out well, like Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64, or The Chronicles of Riddick on the original Xbox. There may be more but those are two stand out titles that come to mind right now. Being a lover of cinema as well as the world of gaming (yes, I truly am a catch, ladies…), I can be pretty picky about what I pay £7 to sit in a crowded room and endure 50 minutes of adverts, some god awful trailers (another Katherine Heigl rom-com anyone? No? Didn’t think so…) and then watch a movie I may or may not like. It’s understandable since there are movies like Transformers out there, which in all honesty made me physically want to vomit. Seriously, it’s unbelievably bad. But a video game based movie and a Michael Bay directed movie do have something in common. I don’t want to see either of them because I know they’ll be garbage.
It may just be me, I have friends who like video game based movies, and box office figures show that others do too (critics would agree with me but no-one listens to them these days), so I’m not going to question the tastes of other people, for me to do so would be obnoxious, and I’d be no better than… Michael Bay.
The question I offer to you is, why is it necessary to even make video game based movies?
Since the 32-bit console era, video games themself have grown into an experience of their own, one that combines the element of cinema with the interactivity offered from games, creating a world which you participate in and a story which unfolds around you. One of the first games to offer the ultimate cinematic experience was Metal Gear Solid for the Playstation. The game was a seamless blend of cutscenes containing well written dialogue, colourful characters and an epic and often moving storyline to rival that of a big budget Hollywood blockbuster. Not only did it have the story, but it had excellent gameplay mechanics that kept you gripped and made you want to improve yourself to progress; it was a true evolution in gaming, and everyone started to recognise how much more games could be. The influence of Metal Gear Solid is still visible today, maybe the stories aren’t as good (as a matter of fact some are god-awful, for example, the Ninja Gaiden games).
So what’s the point in condensing an epic and engrossing experience into 90 minutes or more of celluloid fodder? The target market for video game based movies will of course be the people who’ve played the game in the first place, I wouldn’t want to see the experience skewed to a point where characters are altered and storylines are diluted, and the fact is, a lot of games these days are celebrated more for their gameplay as opposed to their story, and that’s all you get with screen adaptions; a story.
There’s a simple answer to why these movies are made; YOU! Yes, you there! You disgust me! Aaaaand a couple of times… me, but I disgust myself anyway.
People actually see these movies because of the fond experience they had with the game, they want to see their favourite characters brought to life in action-packed sequences, injected with millions of dollars. It’s all nostalgia, just like the remake fad in Hollywood where old franchises and movies have been given a high price treatment, but like a game into a movie it doesn’t make it better. I defy anyone to tell me of a decent remake.
The good thing is, game remakes can turn out well because of improvements in gameplay, but that’s what makes it a game. I’m sure I’m one of thousands out there who’d love to see a Final Fantasy VII remake, if only graphically, but this is because it was great to play and had a beauty to it which could be realised further thanks to next-gen graphics. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was a nice fan service movie, but it felt a little detached from the original experience, but it’s hard to remake a game that has almost 100 hours of gameplay.
Don’t Hollywood make enough shitty movies without messing up our games? Video game movies in the pipeline right now include Bioshock, Prince of Persia and inFamous. You can’t help but feel a bit cynical about these because not only are they great games, and they all have reasonable storylines, but if you want anything you once loved, admired and held dear defaced and turned into something unrecognisable, send it to Hollywood (this applies to relatives and loved ones too).