Why Do Movie Games Fail?

Is it because of unalterable deadlines? Is it because the best companies don't take these kinds of contracts? Is it because truly good movies don't get licensed to game publishers? Maybe. However, I tend to think the real answer is far more complicated.

At one point or another every person has heard or thought the following: "It's OK, but not anywhere near as good as the original". Despite the "matter of factness" presented by this commonplace critique, no amount of factual information presented can rule out an individual's bias. Even celebrated critics fall prey to what is undeniably human nature. So let's take a moment to analyze what this quote truly means.

What I believe (insert my own bias) is that no matter how well an adaptation is executed, there are things that fans of the original medium will dislike simply because nothing can be as good as one's own imagination. The way we perceive the world is entirely dependent on past experiences. For example, if I read a book, imagine what all the characters look like, envision all their epic struggles, and then see a film adapted from the book I read, some things are bound to not match up. When we are given the power to fill in the gaps, we do it in such a way that is most appealing to us. This of course is dependent on on things such as our likes, dislikes, and personality.

With this insight in mind, think about the shift in medium from film to video game. The first thing to note is that the medium of interaction is completely different. In games, it's important that players have some level of control over the progression of the story and how evens unfold. This is not true in film. So in order to satisfy this need for influence on environment or plot, certain aspects of the original become skewed or transformed into something that the original author hadn't intended. The more this happens, the farther and farther away from the "true message" one is likely to get. In a way, in order to satisfy one's needs while playing the game, they betray the original experience that they value so dearly by flipping the script.

So why do movie games fail? Because in the words of Kirk Lazarous, action Jackson can't cry, so our personal bias steers us to a comparison before we even get a chance to enjoy a new experience.

12 Comments
13 Comments
Posted by jcfarny

Is it because of unalterable deadlines? Is it because the best companies don't take these kinds of contracts? Is it because truly good movies don't get licensed to game publishers? Maybe. However, I tend to think the real answer is far more complicated.

At one point or another every person has heard or thought the following: "It's OK, but not anywhere near as good as the original". Despite the "matter of factness" presented by this commonplace critique, no amount of factual information presented can rule out an individual's bias. Even celebrated critics fall prey to what is undeniably human nature. So let's take a moment to analyze what this quote truly means.

What I believe (insert my own bias) is that no matter how well an adaptation is executed, there are things that fans of the original medium will dislike simply because nothing can be as good as one's own imagination. The way we perceive the world is entirely dependent on past experiences. For example, if I read a book, imagine what all the characters look like, envision all their epic struggles, and then see a film adapted from the book I read, some things are bound to not match up. When we are given the power to fill in the gaps, we do it in such a way that is most appealing to us. This of course is dependent on on things such as our likes, dislikes, and personality.

With this insight in mind, think about the shift in medium from film to video game. The first thing to note is that the medium of interaction is completely different. In games, it's important that players have some level of control over the progression of the story and how evens unfold. This is not true in film. So in order to satisfy this need for influence on environment or plot, certain aspects of the original become skewed or transformed into something that the original author hadn't intended. The more this happens, the farther and farther away from the "true message" one is likely to get. In a way, in order to satisfy one's needs while playing the game, they betray the original experience that they value so dearly by flipping the script.

So why do movie games fail? Because in the words of Kirk Lazarous, action Jackson can't cry, so our personal bias steers us to a comparison before we even get a chance to enjoy a new experience.

Edited by believer258

Spider-Man 2 was a pretty good game based on a pretty good movie, and it greatly deviated from its source material.

There's also Goldeneye N64 and Escape From Butcher Bay.

Creating a good movie game is entirely possible; they mostly suck because they're mostly quick cash-ins made by people who really don't care about the source material or the experience. It is really as simple as that, no deeper insight necessary.

EDIT: Also, Game of Thrones (If I'm not mistaken) is supposed to be more based on the books than the TV show.

Posted by RedRoach

I think you might be over thinking things. Most movie games have a small budget, and limited development time, which leads to a rushed, cheaply made game. Look at Battleship, it actually has some cool ideas, with 6 more months of dev time it could've been a pretty cool game instead of mediocre. Riddick was one of the best movie games ever, and part of that is because it wasn't rushed. They released it way after the movie, dev's had time to make a great game.

Posted by Seastalk

@believer258 said:

Spider-Man 2 was a pretty good game based on a pretty good movie, and it greatly deviated from its source material.

There's also Goldeneye N64 and Escape From Butcher Bay.

Creating a good movie game is entirely possible; they mostly suck because they're mostly quick cash-ins made by people who really don't care about the source material or the experience. It is really as simple as that, no deeper insight necessary.

You took the words right out of my mouth.

Posted by FancySoapsMan

because companies know that they'll sell relatively well since they're tied to a popular product, regardless of quality.

Posted by jcfarny

Thanks for the feedback everyone. I appreciate your insights.

Posted by sevenLiter

Cash is king as others have singed. It alone sits upon the Iron Throne. Surely as cousin-hood will open the gates to Cersei's baked oven-goods.

Posted by MarkWahlberg

Riddick is the most well known example, but the King Kong game for Xbox was surprisingly good, as was the Treasure Planet game, not to mention the Pod Racer game, which is honestly my favorite racing game of all time. Actually, I would argue that most of the Star Wars games were consistently good in such a way that they were able to carry the franchise when the prequels couldn't, but that's a whole 'nother potato.

These are just a few examples, but the key thing in each of them is that they take elements from the films, and then go off and do their own thing with them, while staying true to the themes/atmosphere/whatever of the original, rather than just be strict game versions of the events depicted in those films. Which is exactly what a tie-in from a different medium should try to do.

Posted by Marcsman

Goldeneye is also the exception

Posted by Napalm

Because they get an incompetent screenwriter to pen a script, and an incompetent director to direct it. The turnout is mediocrity.

Posted by MiniPato

So they can learn to pick themselves up.

Posted by DondiTerminator

Because they are rushing, just like Expendables 2, even if didn't play it I can say the game is pretty fucked up. I don't know about The Amazing Spider-Man!

Posted by EpicSteve

People can bring up outliers all day, but the point is that movie games are just poorly made. They probably do alright and lean on impulse purchases.