Games lost in adaptation

The last few years have seen the video games become both silly and complex.

Published: 23rd September 2018 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd September 2018 11:47 AM   |  A+A-

The concept of a book or some film and life being interchangeable seems plausible but no matter how hard one tries, why is still a little difficult to imagine life mirroring a video game? In the last two decades there have been numerous instances where popular video games got a high-profile movie makeover beginning with Super Mario Bros., but despite the presence of marquee names such as Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper, the end result was such a mess that the company behind, Nintendo, steered clear of adaptations for decades. The ones that followed only made the genre appear frivolous—Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, House of The Dead, and Doom—so much so that the industry came to accept the so-called ‘the curse of the video game.’

The last few years have seen the video games become both silly and complex. There are people who spend a better part of their existence within the world created by these games and there have been studies on the social effects of video games on children, which have revealed that playing violent video games makes people feel more aggressive and less sympathetic towards victims. Irrespective of the negative press, there is a general consensus that video games have transcended the consciousness of people. Game designers such as Mary Flanagan believe that games can even help create social and behavioural change. In a presentation called ‘Game Changers: Playing Games for Good’, Flanagan proposed that unlike treaties or policy change, games could help change the mindset because they allow people to be free and this could be a key factor in addressing difficult issues. Of course, it would be difficult to believe that something like Angry Birds, or the movie it later inspired, could really help solve the world’s problems but repeated playing does give people an opportunity to rethink perspective.

In the late 1980s, the game Prince of Persia was a hot favourite with Indian teenagers and the fictionalised setting—an unarmed protagonist ventures through a series of dungeons to defeat the grand Wazir Jaffar in order to save an imprisoned princess—created the perfect environment for not just conversations but also inculcated a change of minds and behaviour. It created a certain kind of association that lasted years but the film based on the popular game could not create the same bond. Could the disconnect between video games influencing the mind and films based on them failing to do the same be due to the transformation of the user experience from one format to another? Games, like books, are more often than not a highly individual experience but while the journey of a book into a film still maintains some semblance of the experience, does the inability to ‘play’ the game mar the experience when it comes to the film adaptation of games?

The recent news of a live-action/ CG hybrid version of the hit mobile game Monument Valley where a solitary princess walks across a landscape filled with Escher-esque buildings ostensibly seeking forgiveness could perhaps change it all. The game looks deceptively simple and yet intriguingly enough is meditative and packed with an overwhelming sense of history. Depending on how it’s translated into a film it could provide filmmakers the missing link to not only come up with the ultimate video game film but also retain the emotions that a player undergoes while playing.  

Gautam Chintamani

Film historian and bestselling author

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