Since seeing the God-awful movie Dead or Alive and playing the train-wreck-of-a-videogame that is Reservoir Dogs, a question occurred to me: what is so wrong with mixing games and movies? I thought about this ponderance long and hard, and decided that I wanted to know whether games and movies can ever form a creatively useful partnership, or whether the offspring of Hollywood and Cyberspace could ever get together and produce beautiful cinematic babies?
So, where to start? Well, of course, at the beginning. We'll take a look at the baby steps movies and games made back in the 80's, examining the foundations for movie-game relations. We'll then take a look at a few case studies, games that have been turned into movies and how successful they were. I'll be doing the same the other way round before, hopefully, coming to a positive conclusion to the future of goovies (gaming movies).
The only place to start when talking goovies is UK developer Ocean Software. Throughout the 80's the UK-based games designer acquired the rights to make a wide variety of movie games. These included Terminator, Rambo, Knight Rider, Short Circuit and a whole host of other iconic 80's hits. Who remembers these on the Atari and Amiga?
Ocean made popular, if abysmal, 8-bit movie conversions.
Hoskins is... Mario?
In a world where the Amiga was gaming King, people snaffled up these fairly basic 2D games even if they bore almost no resemblance to their movie counterparts. Expectations were pretty low when it came to actual gameplay, people were just happy to be playing around in a virtual world with their favourite movie characters. This was a trend that would continue through the 8-bit systems, into PC gaming and through to consoles.
Since then it has become the industry standard for every blockbusting movie to come complete with a game. These games tend to sell brilliantly despite being consistently below par which raises the question: do games really need to be good when they've got a big Hollywood hype machine backing them?
The first movies based on games.
On the other side of the fence it took the movie industry slightly longer to get going with goovies. Flicks like Tron, Wargames and The Wizard all featured videogames heavily. However, it wasn't until Super Mario Bros hit in 1993 that the movie industry jumped with both feet into goovies. Super Mario Bros, for anyone under the age of 11, was considered a flop. Despite being gaming's leading man, Bob Hoskins' Mario set the tone for what has been 13 awful years of goovie entertainment.
Does something stand in the way of games and movies from coming together to form something special? There are many arguments to suggest so. Some believe that games are driven by their interactivity and thus do not translate well to the passive movie format. Others argue that games simply don't have the storyline or plot features to create a compelling motion picture. Others argue that many of the gifted directors and producers feel a movie about games undermines their credibility and thus the goovie is always created by the weak teams.
I'll take a look at some of these arguments over the next few pages, and decided which, if any, are actually true.