Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Can (Should) We Make More Book Games?

If you get bored with my ramblings today, go read this interview/article on Nolan Bushnell, the absentee father of gaming. I am bemused by that title. It completely fits him. I bet you all didn’t know that Bushnell assisted with the creation of TomTom. I did but I’m a dork; I know a lot of random things. I could win WWTBAM (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) half asleep, but I’m not “tv friendly.”

Let's be honest. We like the Lego version more.
I stumbled upon this article where the writer suggests 3 books that would make for good video games. Silly me. I never thought about going this route. Usually it’s movies to games and vice-versa. Or we get the book to movie to game combo (go LOTR go). There are a number of books out there that deserve the same treatment, but they might prove to be successful.

Books are another one of those tricky niches of art. Movies typically suck at reimaging them. You’re taking a 500 page book that might take someone months to read and squishing it down into 2 hours. At least with a video game you could potentially have a word-by-word retelling of the story without losing the details.

It almost seems obvious that we should be making books into video games. The author wouldn’t have to compromise with Hollywood, and we’d be getting a more faithful recreation of the story-worlds.

Example! The Da Vinci Code, which I’m re-reading for the third time. It’s an interesting story. The movie sucked. Why I forced myself to watch it I’m still uncertain of, but wow. They dropped soooo many of the key features that made the book enjoyable. And the context of the book where everything has multiple meanings, symbolism, and the pace of the action requires the reader to be able to sit back and think. Couldn’t do that with the film.

Also, really crappy casting choices. I’m sorry Tom Hanks. I heart you for the actor that you are, but you are not Robert Langdon and don’t fit his description at all. *bonks Ron Howard on the head.* You are a smart man and a creative director, but not your best idea.
If they retooled the book into a game, it has a lot of possibil…

*listens to the murmors*


They already did that?
Look! So obvious! Man even for 2007 that's some pretty crappy graphics.
Oh…wow. That’s a pretty crappy game.

More proof that taking a pre-made idea and re-working it doesn’t always, well, work.

Now that I’ve had a chance to look at the game, it reminds me nothing of the book. There are key plot points here and there, but really, it doesn’t feel like the book. Even worse is they added elements into the game that were in neither the book nor the movie. And a really weird combat system. I don’t know what to make of it.

Skirt flail!
Ok. So let’s assume that they didn’t make a game for The Da Vinci Code. It’s a puzzle junkies dream. I’d rather they go for an accurate retelling of the book versus dropping and adding in random things that don’t equate to the story. In that sense, maybe the book is best suited for one really long ass cut scene. Because if you’ve read it, you already know the end result. You know the codes and how to break into the secrets.

Alright. So maybe not the best example.

How about Treasure Island or Gulliver’s Travels? Now those could be interesting. Action/adventure/platformer where you can put your survival skills to the test. Maybe part Sim City with part Adventure Quest. That could be a challenge for gamers and developers alike.

The trap that devs could easily fall into is the same one movie studios are fully aware of: how to make the world of the book real. Descriptions in books range from being overly detailed to very vague. Again using The Da Vinci Code, the details are pretty miniscule. You get a broad stroke of the setting. Characters of importance will be give a description, even then the protagonist Langdon is given a general idea to the reader with the rest left to their imagination. So how can a movie or game replicate that without pissing off the readers?

That’s a tricky question to tackle with no real answer. Even if we were to go straight to the source of the writer and had everything spelled out, there will still be bits and pieces that don’t quite fit with the reader’s vision. This is why we have dozens of movies about Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. Everyone gets the same basic idea, but the nuances are different in every single movie: all fitting in with each persons unique view of the story.

You know that there are people out there that dislike, even hate the Harry Potter movies because they don’t stick with the story? Go Google “Hate Harry Potter” and you’ll get a slew of websites about it. Even with the writer involved, there was no way the movies would be able to give 100% of the story from the books. Even still, some key things were removed that outraged Potterheads.

There’s no real one answer to any of these questions, or that video games are even a good outlet for books. We just know that triple filtering it down from book to movie to game is just a horrible, horrible idea. Don’t do it.

Or if all else fails, Lego!


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