5 Movies That Could Be Adapted Into Unique Games
It’s not unusual for big studios to produce video game tie-ins for movies, but how often to we see a video game adaptation of a live-action movie that is something other than 100 percent action? How often do developers take advantage of the story framework provided by film to build a unique gaming experience?
It’s a shame, because as much as video game people love to throw out the word “cinematic” to describe games they like, that almost never refers to anything other than the $200 million Michael Bay-movie version of cinematic. There is an endless discussion of the relative lack of variety in video game genres, yet few developers with some money are taking aim at going in truly new directions. They might be evolving slowly over time, but still avoid going completely fresh with it.
So let’s help developers out with a thought exercise: here are five films that are seemingly anathema to standard gaming, turned into game concepts well outside the normal parameters the industry puts on itself. You’re welcome, industry.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
There are a number of compelling reasons to craft a game about Tom Ripley, the decidedly amoral con man created by Patricia Highsmith and best realized on the big screen by this film. But the obvious and most convincing is that it would be a game about being a wily bastard who has to outmaneuver his foes with his mind, rather than his fists or a supernatural skill with firearms.
Anthony Minghella’s filmic version of Ripley is actually perfect as a game protagonist. Young Ripley is tasked with convincing Dickie Greenleaf, a waspy upper class twit of similar age, to abandon his high-rolling Italian lifestyle and return to the U.S. Pretending to have been a classmate of Dickie’s at Princeton, Ripley bonds with Dickie and Dickie’s fiancee, Marge, at least until very bad things happen. Ripley, who Minghella wrote as more overtly gay than Highsmith ever claimed him to be, starts to fall for Dickie and becomes jealous of Marge. But Ripley’s attempt to make a pass at Dickie goes wrong: Dickie accuses Ripley of being a liar, they fight, and Ripley commits his first murder.
From there, Ripley attempts to avoid being caught, while also trying to maintain his newly affluent lifestyle. Naturally, he ends up stealing Dickie’s identity, setting himself up in a swanky new apartment and killing a couple other guys, including another love interest.
How does this work as a game? The first step is to steal David Cage’s design philosophy wholesale. Think the first half of Indigo Prophecy, in which the hero has to deal with having unwittingly committed a murder. Throw in dynamic dialogue options that can be influenced by Ripley’s emotional state. You could keep enough control of a scene that Ripley stays on top of his s–t, but include a mechanic that would allow the saying of the wrong thing to result in the murder of someone you might otherwise be able to spare.
Yes, it would be mostly dialogue-driven, with some action-based choices (say, for example, where to hide a body), and not strictly adherent to the plot of the film. But given Ripley’s propensity for emotional outbursts, tying dialogue options to his innate emotional reaction (“maybe feelings are feelings because we can’t control them”) would create a dynamic game experience vastly different from what is normally sold to us.
In The Cut
For some reason, there really aren’t very many erotic thriller video games. Enter Jane Campion’s super erotic mystery thriller about an English teacher named Frannie. Frannie witnesses a blowjob in a bar bathroom; the next morning a severed limb show ups on her street. This involves her with a police detective so creepy he makes a pass at her at the crime scene.
The tale is chilling — there is reason to believe the detective is the murderer, and the version of New York presented in the film is that long-lost dystopia that youngsters like me know only from films like Taxi Driver or Death Wish. Read: Frannie is never really safe at any point in the story. Meanwhile, there’s hot sex everywhere, including an awesome scene in which Frannie handcuffs the detective to an exposed pipe because she’s scared of him, and then bones him anyway.
This movie isn’t so much about Frannie solving the murder: rather, it’s intent on invoking a real sense of paranoia in the viewer as she becomes wrapped up in the case. In that way, a game version would probably be best done as the sort of mechanics-lite experiences that The Chinese Room and The Fullbright Company have been putting together.
Interactivity is still necessary, and where dialogue options could be included to allow the player to inform Frannie’s personality, the story has to stay within a pretty specific trajectory. Some dynamic, quick-time-event-powered foreplay would be nice as well, if the developer could get away with it, but there’s obviously only so far a developer can go with sex/nudity, even eight years after Hot Coffee.
And, yes, the experience of playing as a woman who navigates a The Warriors-style NYC alone under the constant threat of physical violence, while having an explicit relationship with a man she fears is a serial killer, would upset a lot of folks as they play, but that’s the point. The movie is supposed to unsettle you immensely, and the game should operate under the same pretense.
The key to making it all work, I think, would be to give the player power over how Frannie interprets events, which could in turn alter her perception of the other aspects of the game. If one chooses to, say, not be intimidated by the detective’s aggression, then perhaps walking home will be less of an ordeal. At the same time, taking that stance might also heighten the disturbing nature of later occurences.