Relying on games as a basis for movies is hardly a modern development. Ever since the advent of the movie theatre, we’ve been inundated with romanticized versions of the classic games we play and love, and for good reason. Yet, as far as this form of inspiration has come, it’s not without its share of failures. When turning more contemporary interactive experiences like video games into movies, there tends to be much more of a struggle. So why is this, and why could this problem soon be a thing of the past?

Establishing a Culture

The biggest advantage that films have when basing their stories on classic games stems from an understanding of culture. Many classic games and the zeitgeist surrounding them have been well established for generations, so there’s little confusion about the realities these titles represent. Even when translated into modern technologies, as we’ve seen with online slots, the base understanding is still there. Contemporary incarnations like Mystic Chief and Gonzo’s Gold might be more advanced than their predecessors, but they’re still casino games at heart, so movie writers and audiences understand them.

On the other side of this equation, we could look at the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie. Despite being released in the time when Mario was an indisputable international hit, nobody involved in the film seemed to understand the plumber or video games as a whole. As a result, the title was a box office bomb, making $39 million on a budget of around $45 million.

A New Standard

Nearly 30 years since the release of the Super Mario Bros. film and the market has been flooded with video game movies of varying quality. Many, like anything touched by Uwe Boll, are considered the perfect examples of what not to do, but more recently, some interpretations have raised the bar considerably.

Most illustrative of the two biggest modern hits are Sonic the Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu. Both include big-name actors, both were expected to be terrible, and both proved naysayers wrong. These movies showed what could be accomplished by filmmakers who understood both the movie and gaming mediums, and they succeeded in this effort.

What Changed?

Simply put, we did. Video gaming was popular back in 1993, but it was nowhere near the juggernaut it is today. In the modern-day, hundreds of millions of us play video games daily, and even those who don’t have some understanding of the culture behind the experiences. Like classic games achieved in the past, video gaming is now popular enough to be a ubiquitous form of entertainment, and this reality carries into the filmmaking world.

Many of the people employed to make video game movies today aren’t those who fumble blindly around, they’re people who grew up with and still love to play video games. These new movies aren’t just cash grabs, they’re made by people with a deep love for the property, and this love is reflected in the quality of the products they produce.

As for what this means for the future of video gaming adaptions, we wouldn’t assume that every future title is going to be a winner. Rather, we’d expect a slow increase in high-budget gaming films that live up to their promise, which can entertain long-time fans and newcomers both. It’s an exciting prospect, and one many of us can’t help but look forward to.

Author: Alex Fischer

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