Video Game Movies: Bringing Gaming to the Mainstream

With the recent release of the Warcraft movie, and the ever increasing popularity of transforming video game concepts into films, I started wondering how well do video games translate to the big screen? And how do they appeal to such a mainstream cinema audience?

Over the years, it’s been a popular trend for Hollywood producers to make films out of successful games, most notably Tomb Raider and the Resident Evil series; both of which went from being a gamer’s bread and butter to high-impact action films. The films starred famous actresses (Angelina Jolie and Mila Jovovich, respectively), had reasonably large budgets, and were also surprisingly big successes.

It’s interesting to see, I think, how gaming (especially a few years ago) was classed as the “geeky” or “nerdy” hobby, yet when a film was made of said “geeky” material, it became a mainstream success. So what’s the difference between a movie and the game it’s based on?

Well for starters, obviously you physically play a video game, whereas watching a film is a much more passive thing to do. A lot of people can see films without being judged too harshly, as it is a fairly common action for people to go and just “test the waters” as it were.

In my opinion, despite gaming being a much more exciting option, people would generally prefer to sit and watch rather than immerse themselves into a universe fully. You don’t feel the same thrill as you do actually playing, living vicariously through your character.

Film Resident Evil

It’s also interesting to see which games are chosen to make it to the silver screen. Tomb Raider and Resident Evil are both action RPGS, with the latter also being in the horror genre. It seems that horror and action games are the most favourable when it comes to writing a movie, which is suggested to me by the successful Silent Hills films, the House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, and Doom adaptations. It’s either horror or action. Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter both got films, as did Max Payne, Hitman, and Prince of Persia, all of which soon became household names.

It’s hard to say why action and horror games are thought to make the best movies; in my personal opinion I’d have thought the opposite. Survival horror games especially lack much of a storyline more often than not, and first person shooters are only interesting when it’s you doing the shooting. Perhaps it is the shock value? An excuse for CGI? A clichéd desire to appeal to the vast majority of male players in the genres? It would make more sense to me to make an exciting two hour epic of, say, an Elder Scrolls game or perhaps The Witcher, which contain years’ worth of lore, hundreds of hours gameplay, interesting and developed characters, plus mythical creatures and fantasy galore!

Film Tomb Raider

Having said that, since these adaptations do so well, the film industry have more recently branched out into original game/movie hybrids with the likes of Wreck It Ralph and Pixels. It appears that as video game films get more popular, and thus more mainstream, more people are coming forward as gamers. In the past couple of years the gaming industry has soared into the spotlight, with things like E3 and e-Sports becoming worldwide events.

What Blizzard have achieved with Warcraft is to not only bring the traditionally “hardcore” MMORPG world to the mainstream, but they’ve also brought back all the excitement surrounding the fantasy genre after the flop of The Hobbit films. Suddenly, “geeks” are everywhere: men, women, children; everyone wants a slice of this new gaming phenomenon.

Gaming isn’t just for the “nerds” anymore. With the release of the Warcraft film and the anticipation of the Assassin’s Creed movie, more and more people are embracing their gaming side and enjoying the original MMOs now too. It’s a great thing to see such a vast, diverse, interesting community that is growing every day.