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4 Reasons Why It's Difficult to Make a Movie Adaptation of a Video Game

Rate this Article Audiences haven’t received movie adaptations of video games quite well in the past few years. Why is this the case? Well, let’s take a good look at a few possible factors. Virtual Worlds Land! - 4 Reasons Why It's Difficult to Make a Movie Adaptation of a Video Game

Over the years, we’ve seen many video games gradually making their way to the big screen. This isn’t surprising because, after all, many of these games franchises are pretty popular, and it would be wise for the film industry to cash in. Recent examples include Tomb Raider, Assasin’s Creed, and Warcraft. Moreover, you could add animated films to the list, like Pokémon’s multitude of movies, Final Fantasy, and Resident Evil. Unfortunately, live-action adaptations haven’t done well; most of these films are forgettable and always at the bottom half of Rotten Tomatoes’ list.

However, when you put things into perspective, it’s incredibly more difficult to create a movie adaptation of a video game. Whenever one is announced, it immediately goes under the microscope and lights up a social media firestorm. Plus, filmmakers have to contend with a variety of factors, making their jobs more daunting. Let’s take a look at some of which:

Games are interactive and ever-changing, movies are linear

Tomb Raider

Whenever you launch a game, you’re essentially launching a living, thriving digital world you can access and interact with your senses and controller or mouse and keyboard. Although the events happening in its world are decided by a set of commands or through an adaptive AI, (click here to learn more about this) it gives the feeling that it changes as time passes by, or depending on your actions. Simulation, city-building, and strategy games are the best examples simply because the AI adapts according to how you interact with the world.

Meanwhile, movies are linear experiences. They’re not open-ended like most games and don’t involve input from players, making the experience they provide a tier below video games. Lara Croft solving puzzles and traversing through old temples in the Tomb Raider films do not dish out the same level of satisfaction as in the games. Additionally, there are also many open-ended games wherein your actions decide the ultimate fate of your character and the world he inhabits - an appeal movies don’t have.

Compressing a 30+ hour experience into a two hour film won’t cut it

The Last of Us world

Most singleplayer story-driven video games have main quests that provide 30-hour experiences. However, others go as far as dishing out a campaign with almost a hundred. Fantastic examples of the latter include Red Dead Redemption 2, the Assassin’s Creed Games, and The Witcher III.

These games’ respective lengths mean you have to cut out tons of content to compress 30 hours into a two-hour feature film. From a story and writing standpoint, this is untenable because you’ll end up removing a large majority of the plot points as well as the world-building and jargon. When this is done, a significant part of character development and immersion will be removed, resulting in subpar and incoherent storytelling.

The best way to turn these long immersive games into something people can watch is to make them a TV series, not a movie. For example, HBO is going with the TV adaptation route with The Last of Us (starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsay), while Netflix produced Castlevania, DOTA series based around Davion the Dragon Knight, and the upcoming League of Legends: Arcane.

Different creative teams and minds

The Witcher III's world is so immersive

Filmmakers have creative minds and will always take creative liberties when creating things for the big screen. The game directors don’t take the lead in making film adaptations; these involve new personnel, scriptwriters, and an overhauled creative team. Although the game’s creators could play an advisory role, discretion is up to the film director. With this considered, casting choices may end up being controversial, and some story points might end up getting cut or changed, leading to a disgruntled fanbase.

However, this can definitely be rectified by having the games’ creative personnel work in close collaboration with those working on the film.

Complex plot points, world-building, and side stories

Red Dead Redemption would make for an intriguing series

Finally, most games provide an interconnected web of complicated plot points and a varied selection of side stories too big to condense in a feature film, thus losing a massive part of their appeal. In addition, films will usually fail in world-building due to time constraints.

Imagine compressing the plot of Red Dead Redemption 2 in a two-hour film. You will have to cut a massive amount of story points and Arthur Morgan’s character development and interactions with his crew. Plus, you’ll barely get the chance to build on its rich, semi-wild Western world. In a way, it would be more appropriate to turn it into a TV series.

Overall, creating a film based on a video game is a challenging endeavor and is a massive challenge for many film studios. It’s difficult to give justice to a 30-hour game when you’ve got a two-hour limit as you have to condense everything and cut out a lot of content. Plus, video games are interactive - there’s no assurance that a film would have the same level of appeal. However, this doesn’t mean filmmakers shouldn’t try. It’d be great if they could create spinoff films based on the game’s world or create TV show adaptations instead.

In your case, what do you think? What are the most significant challenges, and would you like to see video game films in the future?

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