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Why video game based movies suck

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If anyone would ask you to name some excellent movies that were adapted from video games, you would be in trouble. We don’t know if it’s a curse, or the producers don’t have enough inspirations, but to be honest, almost all of the video games adaptations suck. No matter how more adaptations arrive, no matter how high quality is the CGI, they are not meant for the cinema screen. This, raises the question: why nobody can make a good adaptation? The whole concept is terrible, or they are just trying too much to be people pleasers? We tried to think about this, and this is our 5 points why video game adaptations are bad. 

 


Most video games can’t be adapted. 


Let's start with the fact that most of the time, the raw material is not suitable. We don’t intend to offend anyone, but it took a long time for video games to be viewed as an art. They came to a level where they are too deep and complicated to make a quality film from them. 


For example, in the Need For Speed movie the movie makers they only used a few elements from the beloved NFS: Most Wanted game. The story itself wasn’t that bad, but it was far from the game. Not to mention the angry bird’s movie. They cut out almost the whole concept of the game. The movie is literally about an angry birds perspective. They took out the part where they have to defeat the green piglets with a giant slingshot and inserted a lot of drama. Why they did that? Because the games weren’t meant to be adapted for movie screens.

 

The best games remain untapped


And even if the main story is good, the creators seem to not force themselves. For instance Assassin's Creed could have been more successful if they would follow the history of any of the games rather than creating a stand-alone movie.


The other problem is that most of the time they recreate action games, where the main point is that you can be the superhero. The most promising games, that has a bit of drama, and a good story like Mass Effect, Bioshock, The Last of Us are the ones that haven’t turned into movies. 

 

The protagonists and the conflicts are lame


Unlike the first problem, where the story was changed entirely, it can be a problem even if you stick too much to the story. For example, in the script of Halo from Alex Garland’s, you can see that in vain, he follows the story of the first part almost word for word. He even wrote in the script that “it’s just like the last track”. But somehow the approach simply doesn’t work as a movie experience. The mythology of the game, the moods, characters, tasks are all on point, but all his efforts are worthless because he can't do anything with the two fundamental features of video games: The character and the conflicts.


 First of all, the protagonist of most video games is a nobody. He starts from the bottom, he’s just a skeleton we control, and gain experience and other objectives with it. And it’s the effort, the path that we have to go through is the thing we like. Also, the drama is also created by us, and our choices, like in Detroit, become human, so somehow the game is personalised for us. Something that not a single movie can return. 

 

 Another thing that can’t work in the movies is the scheme of the game. In a video game is something normal that we have to face enemies over and over, and in the meantime, we do tasks to evolve. But in a movie, it can be boring to watch the same scheme over and over for two hours knowing what will be the outcome. 


High expectations 


If you only play online games like blackjack or Tetris you may like the adaptations, because you don’t have anything to compare the movie to. But if someone is a real gamer who played several story games, you have a pretty high expectation from the movie. You seek the same level of excitement, curiosity and action that you felt in the game. But since you can’t control the protagonist it like watching gameplay on YouTube. That’s why when we see that our favourite game has a movie adaptation we expect the same feelings, and we have a pretty high expectation. But the demands are never met.

 

Publishers always have the final word


One perfect example of this is the Halo movie. The producer always had to do what Microsoft asked of him. The company not only got involved in the screenplay but also wanted to determine the directors and the actor crew. And I already forgot… they also asked a lot of money for the rights. 


In this cases, the right owning companies like Microsoft and Ubisoft (in the case of Assasins Creed) acts as if he was doing the studios a favour, but their only target is to promote their own games. On the other hand, a game development company is hard to know anything about the “hows” and “whys” of filmmaking. They only want to create a strong brand from themselves.



Conclusion 


First of all, I have to declare that not all of the adaptations are bad. For example, the Witcher was a big success, and the second season is much waited by a lot of fans. So it’s hard to create a good adaptation, but it’s not impossible. I believe the key is to only think about the movie itself as a single product, not an extension for the game. I believe that’s why the Batman games and movies are so great. They took the DCEU universe, and both the movie and the gaming industry created their own product, with the specific story but with the same characters. 


Will, there be any other good adaptations? We don’t know that. But let’s hope that the studios have learnt from the mistakes in the past and the movies in the future will be better.


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