Sharing and Exploitation of Ideas: Are Movies and Video-Game Tie-Ins A Good Idea?

While I was watching the fantastic Mad Max: Fury Road, I was thinking about a few of the reasons I like it that are explicitly connected to video games. Of course, the Mad Max series has precedence and is likely a large influence toward the games that I will mention. However, I still enjoyed the mix of this really good movie with a couple of really good games I like.

And, this is why I think that movies and video games should stop trying to mix. They constantly fail. It’s so much better when they take inspiration from each other, instead.

The two games I kept thinking about during Mad Max were Borderlands and Rage. It’s very apparent in both games with the focus on vehicle battles, the psycho enemies, the apocalyptic desert settings, and the overall color and feel of these games’ atmosphere.

Borderlands_mad-Max_prev

Mad Max, although not based on either of these games, seems to nullify any need for movies based on Borderlands and Rage. And, inversely, Borderlands and Rage might nullify the need for the upcoming Mad Max game. It’s too early to say whether it will be good or not, but games based on movies have a dreadful track record (save for a few) and vice-versa.

The Resident Evil game series is arguably a treasure of the gaming medium. However, the movies based (read: loosely based) on the games don’t have the same story, don’t recreate the creepy and unique ambiance, don’t have the same style of memorable soundtrack that the games have, and really just go their own way. (On a side note, the third Resident Evil movie seemed to take a lot of inspiration from Mad Max).

If you want to see movies that are actually more like the Resident Evil games, watch George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead series. I would suggest the first three (Night, Dawn, and Day) rather than the recent ones made over the past decade. After all, it is those movies along with the game Sweet Home that inspired Resident Evil in the first place. And if you look closely, you might notice that the movies Psycho and Psycho II also share some of same aesthetic and ambiance of the first Resident Evil game. Resident Evil 5 diverted from the slow horror setting and seemed to get its inspiration heavily from the film Black Hawk Down.

Day Of The Dead (1985)

Day Of The Dead (1985)

Silent Hill is another game that received a film adaptation that betrayed what the game was. But, the game was inspired by movies such as Jacob’s Ladder, The Shining, Lolita, and the show Twin Peaks. Two other games inspired by Twin Peaks include Alan Wake and Deadly Premonition. Even Half-Life was inspired by something previously released. The 1998 revolutionary first-person-shooter took Stephen King’s short novel The Mist, which adapted into a decent movie released in 2007 by Frank Darabont, as heavy inspiration for some of the creatures and story.

And, of course, the Metal Gear series took inspiration from multiple sources, including The Terminator, Escape from New York starring Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, and various ideas from James Bond.

Meanwhile, on the topic of Kurt Russell movies and James Bond; The Thing and Goldeneye are two wonderful examples of games based on movies. It’s not like it can’t be done. Goldeneye for the N64, of course, is likely familiar to those old enough to have been playing the N64 in the late 90s. It had a single-player campaign that followed the movie for the most part, but its split-screen multiplayer deathmatch was what made kids keep coming back over and over. The Thing video game, released for Xbox, Playstation 2, and PC in 2002, is a direct sequel to the 1982 movie of the same name. It didn’t have to recreate the story of the movie, but picked up after and wonderfully recreated the aftermath setting of the movie. It also answered some questions along the way.

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A non-gamer parent or grandparent might look at a game such as the one based on James Cameron’s Avatar and think “oh, this is a popular movie I keep hearing about. My child/grandchild will probably like this.”

The games inspired by movies and the good games directly based on movies had heart and passion in them. These few games based on movies that were good games on their own didn’t seem to be cynical cash-grabs. A lot of work, thought, and genuine drive to make good games created them. They strayed away from the far too many movie-based games that are rushed to the shelves to be released as a piece of merchandise to promote the movie and get extra money for the name recognition instead of being made to be a good game. They also thrive, in part, because a non-gamer parent or grandparent might look at a game such as the one based on James Cameron’s Avatar and think “oh, this is a popular movie I keep hearing about. My child/grandchild will probably like this.”

As for the original games that came about because the creators were inspired by different films, it’s a labor of love. They see something that they think is brilliant and want to emulate it in their own way. They aren’t tied to a particular narrative, and can take what they love about certain movies and blend the ideas, atmosphere, and themes into their own story as they see fit. This is true artistic expression. You don’t have to be completely original nor is it really possible to be. Many masterpieces from all mediums were created with inspiration from something else. What makes it good is how the artist shapes it based on their own cocktail of ideas and their passion to create something worth admiring.

Will the upcoming Mad Max game be a cold cash grab or a passion project? The answer to that will be the first step to how well the game will turn out. It’s not hard to sense passion – or the lack of it – in something. Mad Max is scheduled for release on PS4, Xbox One and PC on September 1, 2015.

Warner Bros/Avalanche Studios "Mad Max"

Warner Bros/Avalanche Studios “Mad Max”

Graham McCann
Ever since he found his mom's Atari 2600 under the TV when he was about four years old, the rest of his life was connected to gaming. His family got their first computer when he was five years old in 1991 - a 286, which was powerful enough to play Wolfenstein 3D and the Hugo adventure game series. He got a Sega Genesis when he was eight, a Pentium 120 when he was nine, a Nintendo 64 when he turned 10, and a Playstation for Christmas when he was 12. A few years after that, he was able to make money and buy games for himself. So, his collection grew and hasn't stopped. When he was 12, he decided that he wanted to be a video-game journalist because he had a subscription to Gamepro Magazine. He eventually went to journalism school, then television broadcasting school, worked for a few years in the news industry, and now here he is with FGE. Graham looks forward to what the future has to bring and he is dedicated to being a part of this awesome gaming industry.

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