“It Did Get Me Thinking”
So recently I downloaded and played a free-to-play game from Xbox Live, Spartacus Legends. It’s one of those games that survives through micro-transactions and feels like a cheap spin-off of a television show. So I wasn’t overly impressed. But it did get me thinking, why are there so many TV or Movie Licence games when original content is preferred by both gamers and critics?
“It’s All About Money”
Well, that’s obvious. It’s all about money. TV shows and films already have an existing audience that are willing to spend money on anything connected to their much beloved entertainment. It’s about milking the cash cow. A cow that only exists because we, the consumers keep spending, dare I say it, wasting our money on content that doesn’t actual satisfy the itch created by our favourite shows or films.
“An Ideal World”
In an ideal world we’d just stop spending money on this stuff and developers would get the hint. But unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world. But what does get peoples attention is unique, original content that we, as the audience, fall in love with. They build their own audience and their own dedicated fan-base. And because of that the games gain critical acclaim and sell millions of copies. Publishers and developers alike take notice of that. So they are more likely to skip the quick cash movie licence option and take a risk with an exciting new idea.
Original ideas are an expression of imagination, that capture our imagination and have the ability to inspire creators of other media to create unique content that in turn is new and exciting. Just look at Naughty Dog’s The Last Of Us, a brilliant and imaginative story with truly inspiring characters. There has been so much hype built up around the game, and rightfully so, it’s awesome. And guess what? It’s a new IP, and without doubt I expect to see it’s effect on the world of entertainment shortly. But now look at Deadpool, a game based on a comic (and there’s a film in production). Deadpool is an interesting character that has been translated well to the gaming platform, but other aspects of the game are well, boringly commonplace. I doubt we’ll see it’s influence stretch very far, it’s already a successful franchise whose influence is already being stretched to capacity.
That’s not to say we don’t see games based on existing material that aren’t imaginative or creative. Just look at The Walking Dead games by Telltale Games. While they do heavily borrow from the style of the comic book, the way it does this is somewhat original. Don’t forget that the characters and story are incredible, they draw you in and allow you to get lost in a world that is both terrifying and exciting. To do this they separated themselves from the television show and even from the characters (to some extent, certain familiar faces do make an appearance) and the story of the comic books. This allowed them to expand freely, without many restrictions. But that said, there is still a certain lack of imagination. It doesn’t quite meet the imaginative standards of something like the Bioshock series, which just breathes innovation and creativity.
The problem is that soon enough original games become the very uninspired content I’m currently ranting about. Just look at the Halo series. It’s grown beyond expectation and now Microsoft is turning it into a TV series. So it has become the very thing I’m moaning about, unoriginal content that restricts true inspiring, imaginative TV. Syndication of such franchises is common place across film and TV, but now with Halo it’s games that are having a go. And why not, as an art form it’s just as valid as any other form of media. But in some way I feel like it’s taking away the innocence of gaming. Maybe that’s just me.
“How Often Are You Blown Away”
In my overall opinion, the need for original IP’s is essential to the future of gaming. Developers should try and avoid following the route placed by films, with studios now seemingly reliant on other mediums for stories and characters e.g. comic books, TV shows etc. Which I’m sure we’re all getting bored of. And it does appear that games are avoiding this path. I mean how often are you blown away by a movie licensed game (Goldeneye doesn’t count, that’s an exception to the rule). And how often do you see them these days. They’re a dying breed.
“Inspired And Influenced”
Allowing yourself to be inspired and influenced by other media is fine, just avoid trying to transfer every film into a game. And vice versa. People may say things like “They should definitely make a Mass Effect film”, but if they ever do it’ll never be as good as you want. Because it will never meet expectations. We’ll just get another example of what not to do to join the ranks with Doom. Original ideas are at the heart of gaming, since it’s such a pliable medium that fits our imagination so well. Let’s hope we don’t forget that.