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Crossing Media

If an IP wants to cross media (making movies, videogames, etc.), it is more than welcome to do so. However, copying the story from one to the other inevitably leads to trouble (and poor sales). Creating separate stories in the same universe fixes this.

I've heard it said that when you try to turn a videogame into a movie, you've already lost; you're trying to take two art forms that are so different that you might as well make a movie out of a painting.

On the surface, a casual movie-goer and game-player might think it would work out fine.  Action games = action movies, and there is no reason game-based movies should be terrible, apart from Uwe Boll.

Yet a more critical viewer/player understands that gameplay doesn't translate well, and no matter how intriguing or cinematic the story of a game might be, the story would need to be changed to clear out the repetitive gameplay, which would become repetitive action on the silver screen.

But I find another alternative to these two views.  I agree whole-heartedly that no matter how great a game is, translating it into a movie is a futile exercise in wasting millions of dollars.  But I also think that certain games -- some which are subpar in the first place -- can come out strikingly good in the theater.

Mostly because some games should never have been games in the first place.

Some games suffer from poor gameplay because not enough resources went into design and too many resources went into the writing and the visuals.  When this happens, it is because the lead decided to tell a story first and make a game second, and that decision shines through the entire product.

So when a game has long cutscenes and gameplay that appears to be tacked on, perhaps that gameplay should be un-tacked and a movie or TV show or mini-series or anime should be made out of the story instead.  Perhaps it should even be a book.

I am a writer myself, and I often come up with ideas for stories.  As I come up with the premise, I also decide how it should be told.  Will I write a short story, a play script, a screenplay, a comic book, or a game script?  Each has its advantages and disadvantages.  Each helps to give off a certain feeling and help along what I am trying to achieve.

If I think the storyline best fits in a game format, I have to come up with a genre and mechanics that help incorporate and intermix the gameplay with the story.  If I can't do that, perhaps I picked the wrong medium.

Some game writers are struggling novelists, that don't understand how gameplay should interact with a story.

In fact, I've heard that it's easier to get into Hollywood screenwriting and move to game writing than it is to start in games, so often game writers actually did write movies first and never quite got out of the trappings of screenwriting.

Heck, when I check out game writer job postings, if you don't have game experience, movie or even prose writing experience is considered the next best thing!

It's not.  The next best thing to videogame writing experience is tabletop game writing experience, and after that is gamebooks.

There really isn't much like game writing at all, because it is so necessary to incorporate gameplay into the writing, and often nonlinearity, as well.  Novelists and screenwriters have their own challenges, but those aren't some of them, and there is no analogous challenge in those fields.

Showing screenwriting credits or novels shows off your style, sure.  It also shows your ambition and commitment to complete long-term projects.  But it doesn't show that you can actually write for games.

I can think of lots of games that can't become movies (or shouldn't have), but I also recognize plenty of games that should have been movies from the get-go.

On rare occasions, the boundary can be broken and games can be made from movies and vice versa.  However, this works best when an elaborate world is created and new adventures can take place without one medium copying the plot from the other.

Take Star Wars for example.  The movies were great, and should have been left as movies.  Game versions of the movies were not particularly noteworthy.

But Star Wars games started to get good when new stories and characters were created in the same universe.  You didn't have to be Luke anymore; you could be a Jedi from generations past, or an x-wing pilot on a side-story between movies, or anything.

In fact, I am in favor of expanding universes into different media, as long as the story gets created by the writer knowing full well what medium they're writing for, and knows the tricks and traps of that medium.  Making a videogame and a movie that take place in the same universe is awesome, but to have them tell the same story makes one of them terrible.

To read this article with pictures and jokes, or other articles, development logs, reviews, and more, stop by http://scattergamed.blogspot.com/ 

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