Why Film Adaptations Of Video Games Always Fail

Gaming is a multibillion-dollar industry. Filmmaking is a multibillion-dollar industry. Why then can’t these two industries get along? Whether we look at film adaptations of video Games or game adaptations of films, it would seem that they are rarely able to bring about a game or a film that is a financial success, critically applauded and appeases fans. Such an anomaly doesn’t seem to exist. Quite frankly, it’s bazaar. We live in a world where books, plays, comics, toys, TV series and cartoons have managed to successfully make the jump from their original medium onto the big screen. Games, on the other hand, have got the big screen treatment, yet they manage to be complete failures more often than not.

There hasn’t been one game to film adaptation that has received a “fresh” rating

Based on Rotten Tomatoes ratings, there hasn’t been one game to film adaptation that has received a “fresh” rating (60% aggregate approval rating by critics), which speaks volumes of just how bad these films really are. Assassins Creed, Need for Speed, Hitman, Warcraft and Tomb Raider have all failed us. Surely there is something very wrong.

doom game to film adaptations

Gameplay vs. Storyline

Firstly, it has to be noted that games and films have similar yet different purposes in terms of our entertainment of the medium. Both films and games can be seen as an escape from the natural world. Films allow us to sit back, relax and to lose ourselves in stories that are made to inspire, intrigue, entertain, horrify – i.e. invoke an emotional response or attachment. Games, on the other hand, are meant to be interactive, forcing us to concentrate on a given task, using our sensory functions to accomplish it, while fostering an innate awareness that we all have for success. In other words, a film is all about story, while a game is all about gameplay. Yes, there are games that have quite the intriguing narrative, yet I can guarantee you that if the gameplay were below standard, most would not bother with it.

The interactive nature of a game can cause fans to have a subjective view of the game’s story as they are judged based on the overall gameplay and not necessarily the story alone. The perfect example of this could be the WWE wrestling games or Need for Speed.

There are some gaming fans that love playing the SmackDown games. They love the story their character might find themselves in and just love beating Miz with a chair. Yet, they might not be tuning into wrestling on a weekly basis. Need for Speed, on the other hand, has been a franchise that has been built up over almost two decades. We love these games for the cars, having the ability to tune them up, race against our friends and the different locations. In recent years, we’ve seen these games introduce a storyline. However, I can guarantee that there isn’t one racer fan that is patiently waiting for the next game to release because of it’s gripping storyline.

This can be a difficult conundrum when making a film and trying to extract a good story. Filmmakers might then try to create their own storyline based on the game and that could turn out to be worse than the games actual storyline, i.e. the Tomb Raider franchise.

resident-evil game to film adaptations

A movie is not a game

A movie is not a game. Most filmmakers forget this for some reason and decide the best way to show its audience that this film is based on a game is to try to recreate some gameplay elements. I’m looking at you, Doom.

I honestly feel that a movie should be a movie and a game should be a game. Directors should not be looking for ways to recreate gameplay. Instead, they should be focusing on creating a solid story that will complement the game. Whether that’s an original story, the game’s storyline or a prequel or sequel story to the game, the film should feel grounded. Just imagine if Call of Duty was to be adapted into a film, and the film that we got was Black Hawk Down. That’s how I imagine game-to-film adaptations to be handled.

Now, I know I said that most game storylines are generic but there are many games that have intriguing stories that are worthy of a film. Filmmakers shouldn’t be afraid to tackle the same storyline in the film. For some reason, they think they have to completely change the story (like Max Payne). Not following a game’s history is an annoyance that many gamers have with these film adaptations. This certainly proves to be one of the key elements to their failure.

Let’s hope Hollywood finds its feet with the new Tomb Raider film. I’ll take an EarthWorm Jim or Metal Slug film over any current game-to-film adaptation.

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  1. Brendon Bosch

    Brilliant Article and i have to agree. Make an Earthworm Jim movie. Funy character with lots of humour and pointless violence that just needs alot of funny lines. It can work if they stick to the game and animated series formula

  2. Well we love the story in the game , it’s waaaay better than an average movie story.
    God of War
    Prince of Persia
    Assassin’s Creed
    Batman Arkham Games.

    If only they copied the stories instead of just using the concept

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