Why do so many Video Game Adaptations Fall Flat?


PHOTO COURESY OF: Rotten Tomatos, Rotten Tomatoes’ Video Game Movie “Tomatometer”

Rebecca Wilson, Staff Reporter

At first glance The Last of Us, Sonic, Monster Hunter, and Werewolves Within may not seem to share many similarities, but all four are a part of a growing number of video game series that either already have or are getting movie or TV show adaptations.

The “why” question is easy to answer. Video games are profitable. Movies are profitable. It only makes sense to combine the two. For the past few decades, adaptations have brought in hundreds of millions to studios. However, despite their long history, these movies don’t have the best track record with movie or video game fans.

“I like video games, but their movies are usually pretty bad or just mediocre,” answered one Millikan student in an anonymous questionnaire.

“They’re just not very good,” said another.

I like video games. I’ve been playing them for most of my life, but their movie or TV show adaptations usually fall flat. I believe that they have the chance to succeed, but movie studios need to put more effort into it instead of just trying to take the source material and putting it to film.

PHOTO COURTESY OF: Ubisoft Film and Television Vanishing Angle
Werewolves Within currently holds the highest Rotten Tomato Score of Any Video Game Adaptation with an 86% fresh.

In my opinion, they struggle the most with structure and pacing. The average length for most video games ranges from twenty to thirty hours, with some story-driven games being over forty hours long. It’s impossible to condense all of that into a ninety minute movie without making significant cuts to the story and when it comes down to it, video games are meant to be played; movies and TV shows are meant to be watched. Their storytelling structures are inherently contradictory. This isn’t to say that they can’t work, but there needs to be more effort put in by movie studios to make them. They fall into many of the same traps that book adaptations do and can be solved by some of the same solutions.

The most successful adaptations are the ones that respect their source material, but know when to branch out or make modifications to fit the television and movie format. Netflix’s Arcane and Castelvina are both critically acclaimed series and their success is due in part to that.

We’ll be seeing more and more adaptations in the future both for better and for worse, and only time will tell if they succeed or not.