Videogames and Hollywood have not had a good history. As much as I may dislike it, the view that “videogames are just played by kids” still lingers like a bad smell in many corners of society.
This perception has been a big factor in why Hollywood has churned out so many childish videogame adaptations. The painfully stupid Mario Bros. film kicked off a tradition of too many terrible videogame adaptations to list. A decade ago Hollywood was convinced to tackle a more mature perspective on videogames with the Final Fantasy CG film. Unfortunately, nobody bothered to write a comprehensible script. Final Fantasy bombed at the box office, losing a pile of cash for Hollywood and dooming us to suffer through financially safe and emotionless videogame adaptations for another decade.
I glimpsed light at the end of the tunnel of terrible videogame films last year with the announcement that a Dead Island film had been greenlit. 2011’s Dead Island announcement trailer, or as I call it “the greatest trailer ever made”, packed more style and emotion into a handful of minutes than most movies achieve.
The Dead Island game wasn’t a patch on the trailer, but that’s not the point. The point is that this trailer was a perfect example, in an increasing trend, of the videogames industry delivering emotionally credible digital entertainment.
Another high-watermark for emotion in videogames was Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain game. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise then that Quantic Dream has delivered another stand-out digital performance with its Kara tech demo.
Recently unveiled at the Game Developers Conference, Kara is a short film built using PS3 graphics. I should point out that Kara is not a game that’s currently in production, but instead a demo of the motion-capture tech the studio is working with. It’s a clever and thought provoking scene involving the construction of a self-aware cyborg. Kara offers a tantalising hint of the sorts of films Hollywood could be making by taking videogame inspiration seriously.
With both Dead Island and Heavy Rain films confirmed as being in production, I certainly hope Hollywood’s ready to begin producing serious and mature films based off videogames. I don’t think I can handle another Mario Bros. Here’s hoping the brainless but enjoyable action of the Resident Evil films isn’t the best Hollywood can do with videogames.
By Naz Pattison - Naz is a gaming industry veteran and freelance journalist, who has worked as the editor-in-chief of IGN Australia, at the Official PlayStation Magazine, N64 Gamer and Game Informer.