Why Hollywood Should Stop Making Videogame Movies

Turning a videogame into a live-action movie always sounds great in theory. Numerous aspects of games translate well into film, like moments of pure action and high adventure, not to mention the undoubtedly rich universes and characters videogames encompass. With so many games ripe with hundreds of stories just waiting to be told, why is it that with all this potential, videogame movies generally suck?

super mario brothers

There are many reasons why videogames don’t make good movies, perhaps for the same reasons videogames based around movies are also generally crap. Time constraints, license limitations and budget issues can all contribute to a poor final product for both games and movies. Moreover, recognizable celebrities can really harm an experience for both games and movies. Whether they’re contract is sucking the project’s budget dry or their familiarity takes the consumer out of the experience, a celebrity’s likeness can do more harm than good to a videogame or a videogame film.

Then there’s the big one, the leading explanation as to why videogame movies are disappointing — they take away player control, interaction, and individual experience, thus removing everything that makes the game special and memorable in the first place. Forget about story and plot since they are more or less transferrable between games and movies. But imagine games like Mass Effect, Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft, and Fallout as short, linear experiences that happen the exact same way every time. If that sounds like something wholly uninteresting, then you should know that all of these games have been pitched as live-action movies and are possibly in development. This is according to a huge list at IGN, which details the various statuses of game-to-film adaptations, and I must say, the number of videogames (some of them recent) on that list is kind of disgusting. I also find it funny and ironic that so many of the games that were directly inspired by movies and are now being made into movies themselves. It just begs the question of how bad do movie producers want to cash in on recognizable franchises and sell us garbage to make a profit.

Still, many gamers would love nothing more than to see their favorite games make it to the silver screen, and in part I agree. I would freak out if an excellent Halo, Shadow of The Colossus, Metroid, Gears of War, Half Life, Metal Gear Solid, or Uncharted movie were to be made. I get shivers just imagining what they could be like, if done well. Unfortunately, the history of videogame movies hasn’t left me with much confidence or hope that this can happen. Of course there are always exceptions, but for now I’d rather have nothing at all than a humiliating movie based on one of my favorite videogames.

With this in mind, you have to admit it’s sad when even the most mediocre game-to-film adaptations are regarded as "good" just because the precedent before them has been set so low. In truth, I always find myself slightly embarrassed when a game I like is turned into a movie, because then I feel like something I love is unveiled to a group of non-gamers for them to laugh at. I can’t say I blame them either, given some of videogame movies that have come out in the past 10 years or so, and no, I’m not just specifically referring to Uwe Boll movies or straight-to-video. I just can’t imagine someone going to see Max Payne, Tomb Raider, Doom, or Street Fighter and thinking to themselves, "Dude, that was awesome! I totally have to go play the game now, since the movie was so sweet!" I know that videogame movies aren’t necessarily meant for the non-gaming crowd, but still.

To counteract my cynical point of view on the matter, I will say that I find live-action short films extremely entertaining and satisfying.

halo 3 landfall

Made by fans, for fans, the combination of passion, videogames, and film put together can definitely be something to get excited about, and something that Hollywood could learn from. Some of the best I’ve seen are Landfall, a short film directed by Neil Blomkamp (District 9) that explores the lives of Marines and ODSTs before the events of Halo 3, Assassin’s Creed Lineage, which takes place in Italy and follows Ezio’s father Giovanni Auditore before the events of Assassin’s Creed II, and Escape From City-17, a short film that focuses on a pair of resistance survivors trying to escape Half Life 2‘s City-17.

These epic short films are a glimmering ray of hope for the possibilities that Hollywood could one day take into account, but I remain doubtful. For now, we must look forward to the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time film adaptation.

What are your thoughts on videogame movies? Do you agree or disagree with me?


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Author: Tyler Cameron View all posts by

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