Welcome to Lost in Translation‘s quick – wait, not so quick – series of adapting games to television and film. The series grew, but now it’s time to wrap up.
The core through the series kept going back to the key to adapting anything: respect for the original. In the case of games, there just happened to be a few elements that don’t exist in other media. Game mechanics do create a feel for a game; a game of Battleship should be different from a game of Parcheesi while a game of Clue should be different from a session of Vampire: The Requiem*. Video game adaptations also have to factor in that many viewpoint characters are there to represent the player and have no pre-determined personality. Tabletop RPGs allow the players to create their own characters. Boardgames may not even have a being beyond a marker.
Game adaptations have ranged from successful (Mortal Kombat, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), failures (Dungeons & Dragons, The Legend of Chun Li), and the in between (Battleship**, Street Fighter). When an adaptation works, the new work captures the feel of the original. The failures, though, seem to miss the point completely or have no respect for the fans of the original. Warner Bros. is developing a new movie based on D&D, with the project originally working on adapting the RPG’s predecessor Chainmail. With luck, the scriptwriter has played the game and can bring the feel through to appease fans while still not alienating the audience that doesn’t play.
This series barely scratched the surface. I focused on television and movies, but skipped past books. Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October began with the Games Designer Workshop wargame Harpoon. Red October would go on to be adapted as a movie, which then got adapted as a wargame by TSR. The Wild Cards series of books got its beginnings in a Superworld campaign with George R.R. Martin as the GM; in 2007, Green Ronin picked up the license for an RPG based on the setting. Works get adapted, then the adaptations are adapted. Pull one thread and the next thing you know, you have half of a different medium following like cats chasing a laser dot.*** With the proliferation of gaming, whether board, role-playing, card, or video, more and more creators are going to find inspiration in what they play. Amazon’s foray into publishing fanfiction (see Steve’s thoughts, parts one and two for more), we could be seeing more game adaptations in a few years.
Next week, an adaptation by any other name.
* Less blood drinking in Clue, ideally.
** Battleship wasn’t a bad movie in and of itself. It didn’t live up to expectations or to the budget it had.
*** There was a metaphor here, but it got lost.
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