IMHO: Why Video Game/Media Tie-Ins Suck
Sometimes, it’s better to leave books as books and movies as movies. Slews of book-to-movie or movie-to-game tie-ins prove the point. Very few deliver the goods and satisfy fans at the same time. So what makes them suck so? Most of the time it’s forced development, but there is a level of missed expectations that factors in as well.
Often movie based games are released before or close to the release of their movie counterparts. Forced development usually leads to a game’s release before it’s ready, delivering shoddy work riddled with bugs, discontinuity to story, and awful gameplay. The draw of the almighty dollar overrides the desire to deliver quality, creating Eragons and ZOO Game-like developers. The deadline is what is important, not quality, and it always shows. Take games that turn out to be good quality; they are released well after their parent movie was. Look at Lord of the Rings games. Most deliver when it comes to gameplay because more time and attention has been given to their development, and the best in the lexicon of LOTR video games were released after the films. Any project that is given time to perfect will deliver. That’s why I’m convinced that Diablo III will be a masterpice, but that’s another article. A lack of quality development is certainly a factor, but media also creates a level of expectation in fans that usually sets itself up for failure.
I don’t know what was worse: Eragon the book, the movie, or the video game. Maybe that’s a terrible example though, so let’s look at Super Mario Bros. from 1993. The plot follows two Italian plumbers (i.e. Mario and Luigi) who discover a parallel world in which the sinister lizard king (i.e. Bowser) seeks to take over the world because his is running out of water. Somehow Daisy (i.e. Princess Peach) gets kidnapped and the plot of the movie is magically tied into the plot of the game.
Among the many reasons why the movie sucks, the main one is that every expectation that gamers had for the movie were nowhere to be found. Where were the iconic bad guys? Where were mushrooms and castles? Where was douchebag Toad? Some were there, but the few game references we got were lame and anti-climactic (Ahem**Big-Bertha**).
Looking at literature in the same light, there are few times when fans of a book will be fans of a movie based on said book. When someone commits their time, energy, and imagination into reading a book, they create a level of expectation in the realization of that experience. Therein lies the difficulty of creating a well-done movie adaptation–no two people envision their experience the same. Interpretations of emotions and stimuli affect people on an emotional level that is rarely identical.
As an example, one of my favorite book series is Harry Potter, but I can’t stand the films. There are, however, a few scenes that caught my attention and appealed to me, and they were the scenes that were closest to how I imagined them to happen; they met my expectations and then accentuated them, adding detail that I hadn’t thought of before. In that light, it is impossible to match everybody’s imaginational expectations through the medium of film.
The same principle applies to the video game industry, failing to meet gamers’ expectations of how it should feel to be what is expressed in film. When viewing a film, the body is bombarded with visual, auditory, and environmental stimuli that enhance the experience–an experience that will fail to emulate itself outside of the theater. Thus, video games have the possibility of failing due to the lack of expectation. That being said, and like I stated before, any game that is given attention and time in its development will have that much better quality at its release.
Games that follow the same plot as their movie counterparts also set themselves up for failure. There’s no sense of mystery or suspense. Some of the best video game adaptations of a movie are the ones that follow their own storyline, separate from that of the move. Take Spiderman for example. The game was open world, allowing gamers to swoop through the city of New York and explore at their own will, making the experience unique and unpredictable.
The answer to the dilemma is to set deadlines and quotas aside, and spend more time on these titles. The idea works; I would love to play as Thor, Iron Man, or the Hulk, but I want to do it in a way that is its own experience and unique to the other media it relates to.
More Movie/ Video Games that suck:
Fly through rings… sounds more fun than giving myself a haircut with a dull spoon–just as difficult too.
A slapped-together-mess with mediocre development and programming. And that’s being generous.
As bad as the movie. Actually, I’m not sure which is worse.