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What is Game to Screen?

Updated on July 19, 2015

What is Game to Screen?

From the title, Game specifically refers to video games whether they are as complicated or deep as The Last of Us (which at the time of this posting, the film is currently in development) or as simplistic and used as an excuse for gameplay as Super Mario Bros (where you're a plumber saving a princess from a fire-breathing lizard). At this time, board games and other similar venues are not considered for this list but that may change upon the future is sufficient commentary can be made on it. Screen may be a movie, television series, or any offshoot of that.

This listing not only measures how the story is adapted, but also the theme and focus of the games. Not every game makes an ideal adaptation and sometimes a film has to take a good number of liberties to make something successful but can still be, in some fashion, faithful to its source material.


The Adaptation Process

The mediums of video games and film are incredibly different and must be understood accordingly. For example, a story in the vessel of a video game is made to be interactive; one cannot simply stare at a screen or turn a page and expect the story to continue in a video game.

  • Interactivity, while too massive a subject to cover in a single bullet point, it must be understood to some degree. Video games are built to the player's experience and not always validating itself as a strong story.
  • The Audience, believe it or not, some people do not enjoy watching other people play video games. It's not all that different from watching a movie. True, when a friend or younger sibling plays a video game that you like, it's very different from a professional actor playing that character on the screen. But fans of games are more often than not those who'd rather play than watch.
  • Length, depending on the game, it's far more likely for the interactive story to take much longer than a 2-3 hour film, and we're not talking about players who break every pot or box and scale every height to find secrets. Even if a player runs through the bulk of the game just to get through to the end, it takes longer than an acceptable move run time. Like with Page to Screen, films must be condensed to tell the summary of a story.
  • The Environments, while not applicable to all games, many games will remain in silence at times during exploration. Sure, you can cue a montage in a film to carry a similar effect. However, certain games enforce more exploring than the montage equivalent can cover without being tedious in a theatre. Instead, film makers will likely try to fill the gaps with new characters, scenes, or small plots, all which are either stock or original. This material, while not inherently contrasting with the source material, can clash just in theme and execution, or simply suffer and become droll, as was the case with Lara Croft Tomb Raider.
  • Casting, Since video games come with detailed images of characters, you would think this to be safe. Then, you have the Super Mario Bros film where the two characters are 'supposed' to be brothers (instead of resembling more of a father-son age gap).


Super Mario Bros. (1993)

This film is known largely for two things. 1) being the first video game to movie adaptation, and 2) being awful and having very little to do with its source material. Super Mario Bros is world renowned as one of the financially best video games of all time and was largely responsible for saving the industry from the video game collapse. Unfortunately for a variety of reasons, the film had no such success.

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Lara Croft Tomb Raider (2006)

One of gaming's most iconic women of all time, Lara Croft, the Tomb Raider, was notorious for a good number of things that helped to break the ground in gaming. The cinematic adaptations themselves were noteworthy as well, as the first held the title of most financially successful video game movie adaptation (until Prince of Persia: Sands of Time). However the game worked best in isolation, and while that doesn't necessarily equal a bad cinematic presentation, it's the space in between that helped to water down what Tomb Raider could have been.

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Doom (2005)

A complete deviation from the original source material, one has to wonder why they wanted to create a Doom film at all. While holding a couple of nods to the original source, it's difficult to take this film seriously as a Doom fan. They change the entire reason why there are demons/monsters, and that really changes the entire tone and backstory of this adaptation. They cast the right people, had a lot of the right environments, but the story just seems to go the wrong way.

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Mortal Kombat (1995)

Released when the Mortal Kombat craze was at its highest, this film reeks of the 90's in almost every imaginable way. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, one can quickly date the film in moments while watching it. That being said, this turned out to be one of the best Game to Screen adaptations and was the de facto best until Tomb Raider: Lara Croft's arrival.

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Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)

Ugh. Not just a stray adaptation, but a horrible mess of a film, with the characters completely recast, terrible lines, horrible CGI, a terrible plot, and very little actually good about it. While it does keep that killer song from the first film, the change in director (who went on to make the terrifying Event Horizon and Resident Evil movies) and mis-casting of most of the characters made this film not only one of the worst game to screen adaptations, but perhaps a contender for one of the worst sequels in movie history period.

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Future Commentaries

What Should We Comment on Next?

See results

Open to Suggestions

Also, feel free to suggest any titles that you'd be interested our commentary on! The suggestion poll only shows what we currently have access to, but we're certainly not limited to that only. For some works (mostly Resident Evil) that have sequels that more-or-less based on game sequels, we'd like to finish the earliest works first.

Further Reading

Enjoy my Movies based on video games? Maybe you'd like to read about movies based on books.

© 2015 Travis Wood


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