Pixels, film, box art, Pac-Man, sky, bridge, San Francisco

Why video game movies suck

Following on from his holiday article telling us why Christmas games suck, contributor Timlah is back – and this time he’s digging into movies based on video games.

Tim, contributor

Contributor overview
Website: GeekOut South-West
Description: Some men just want to watch the world burn – but that quote certainly doesn’t fit the eccentric Timlah. Geek culture has completely consumed this chilled-out cosplaying conundrum. Regularly smiling and keeping it geeky, he’s hugely fond of indie games and alternative gaming systems.
Timlah says…

Have you ever taken the moment to sit back and watch a good flick? In the eyes of us gamers, we’re so used to being immersed in whatever world we’re in that we don’t really have the time for some movies. So what happens when a film comes out that’s about a world we’re already hugely fond of? I can only be talking about a video game movie – and let me tell you: they suck!

Let me cast your mind to a couple of films that are actually nicely adapted to being on the big screen. I’ve got two examples that are truly phenomenal, which also make video games look rather good. One is Wreck-It Ralph – a movie about video games as the entire world takes place inside of arcade machines – and the other is The King of Kong, a documentary looking at the competitive side of the high-score tables of the classic Donkey Kong.

But if you hadn’t noticed, there’s something a little… ‘amiss’ with these titles. They’re both phenomenally great to watch but at their core, they don’t seem to take an existing franchise and build upon it through stories. On the one hand, we have an animated title to entertain the masses by addressing another animated medium in our beloved video game scene; whereas on the other hand, we have a documentary about what made people so impassioned and so competitive for their favourite video games in the first place.

So what gives? Why hasn’t Hollywood produced that video game movie yet? You know what I mean: the movie that makes us as gamers feel proud to have not only been there to have seen the film, but to celebrate our fandom in a pure expression. Has the media made us feel somewhat bad as gamers to even be called such or is there more afoot? I have a theory and a lot of it comes down to Hollywood adapting video games to fit their relatively ‘cookie-cutter’ mould.

As an example, I’m going to use the Doom movie which I actually look at with a slight fondness – even though it is pretty bad. I remember cringing throughout watching it. However, one thing it did rather well was the actual ‘in-game’ moment. It was stylish and very comparable to the games themselves, which made it incredibly interesting to watch; but the rest of the film was cringe-worthy.

This wasn’t the only film that was cringe-inducing – wow about some that Hitman: Agent 47 movie that came out only last year? It was pretty much panned by critics, as well as a lot of the audience who decided to give it the time of day too. It’s a shame as Agent 47 is a well-known and loved character in video games; so why is it that even when Hollywood is given such a known and story-rich character, they can’t do anything of value with the product? It’s all written for them already, right?

Why aren’t our beloved game developers an integral part of developing stories for video game movies?

Notice then that the issue is less with video games being a feature or even the centre of a film, so long as they are allowed to be that. Don’t build a brand new story around the franchise; embrace the stories that already exist. Intriguingly, I was reading around and a lot of people who are in-the-know seem to suggest the same things, along with the most important question: why aren’t our beloved game developers an integral part of developing stories for video game movies?

As we look to the future, we have a few key video game films coming up. First and foremost, I’d like to point you to the Warcraft movie coming up. If Blizzard are heavily involved in the development of this movie, you can safely guarantee that this will be a brilliant production with meticulous attention to detail. The trailer seems to suggest we’ll be able to expect something of rich quality and it makes me truly excited to see, as I’m a fan of Warcraft lore.

Say what you will of video game movies but I know that, especially up until this point, they have been crap. There have been just a few exceptions and in those cases, it’s where the games are the focus. Draw upon what already exists within them; don’t make your own stories around existing video games. Wreck-It Ralph may have been a surprise hit in that respect but trust me: for title like this there’s a hundred Pixels.

Do you agree with me on this or do you think I’m missing some key, brilliant video game movies? Have I reminded you of some truly terrible films, or do you think that video games have their own special place in cinematography? Let us know in the comments below!

Back to top

14 thoughts on “Why video game movies suck”

  1. I may be alone in this, but I always felt the Silent Hill film, the first one, was rather good. It had a nice atmosphere.

    But then you have the Resident Evil films…those are pretty bad

    Awesome piece 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aah I loved that movie, but it was pure cheese. It was wonderful for the die hard fan (Should debut my Apollo Justice costume soon!) but it was soooo cheesy. I love cheese 🙂

      Thanks for the comment! Much appreciated. Will check the link tonight!


  2. Of course, there’s the issue that a game doesn’t have to have a good plot for it to be fun. Movies don’t have this luxury; the writing needs to be good in order for it to be worth seeing. Even if the movie is completely silly, you still need writing talent to pull off that style successfully. Then there’s the issue of the games that do have a good story still not translating to good movie experiences. What makes video games different than any other medium is the interactive element they possess. The most linear game is more open-ended than any movie; even the Half-Life series, which has good writing, would be difficult to translate to theaters because the story is presented primarily through scripted events. In other words, even the best-written games would be difficult to make movies out of because they were written for the medium. Books are comparatively easy to translate to movies or television because you’re going from one non-interactive medium to another. Movies can translate well to video games because you’re adding an interactive element; you may have to take liberties, such was the case with Goldeneye, but it can be done. Video games have a difficult time being translated to films because you’re taking something away – that interactive element which gives the medium its identity.

    Then again, there are some game creators I like to call “The Misplaced Movie Director.” Those people create scripts as though they’re writing for films, present their story in non-interactive cutscenes, and never give the player a choice in how to advance the plot. It makes me wonder why those creators don’t try their hand in directing movies; it’s obvious they desperately want to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Perhaps they dont get involved with film directing because they are cinematographers who wants their stories strictly to be interactive? Its a valid point when you talk about events – thats effectively what makes the difference between film and games!


  3. it seems like everyone forgets “Mortal Kombat” when mentioning video game movies (truth be told i don’t blame anyone who does) it is by no means brilliant but it works as a martial arts movie and manages to capture the campy spirit, another that gets ignored almost entirely is the “Street Fighter 2” anime (the 94 feature) which again isn’t brilliant but i believe is better than even “Mortal Kombat”

    I also think your insistence on video game to movie adaptations needing to be brilliant emotional experiences highlights a fault in audience expectations of these movies. I think if someone is expecting the upcoming “Assassin’s Creed” film to be anything other than a well produced historical action film they are going to be bitterly disappointed with the result (of course i could be wrong as well).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mortal Kombat is never forgotten. I certainly could not call it a good movie though. Fun and entertaining perhaps, but not good. You’re right about it being campy, but I feel as if it detracted from the rather gritty world of Mortal Kombat. Thats no slight towards campy films, either (I love campy stuff! Hello Evil Dead!)

      Sadly, I havent seen the Street Fighter anime (Shocking as I love me a good anime. I am trying to get my partner into it, slowly!)

      I am a bit shocked you’re drawing up my referencing emotional experiences in films, I had to read through my article again to see what you referenced but couldnt see it. However, I wont lie: I think it should be an experience for gamers as well as non-gamers. I dont know if I agree with emotional though!

      I also didnt know there was an Assassins Creed movie coming up! Thanks for that 🙂 Also, big thanks for the comment! Gave me food for thought.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. first off i’m sorry to imply anything you didn’t write, i read into this line perhaps a bit too much:

        ” Why hasn’t Hollywood produced that video game movie yet? You know what I mean: the movie that makes us as gamers feel proud to have not only been there to have seen the film, but to celebrate our fandom in a pure expression”

        What i hear in that quote is to me an unrealistic expectation of video game to movie adaptations, as the track record (at least to me) doesn’t make me think the genre is capable of producing anything other than serviceable experiences, and expectations have been proven to wildly alter perceptions.

        Also I may have flew off there because there are movies like “Mortal Kombat” and “Street Fighter II (animated)” that work on their own as movies (again MK is by no means a great movie, but i say it is a good movie compared to others in the genre of video game to movie adaptations and competent within Martial Arts movies. But you gotta adjust those expectations.) and are as faithful as can be to the source material. i thought after i hit send that i might have hit below the belt and was necessarily harsh, again i apologise if i offended or otherwise twisted what you meant.

        It is a valid criticism of the MK movie that their isn’t a lack of gore, however my defense has always been the early video games (1-3) are more silly and campy than gritty and violent (the modern games however have definitely gone for a darker tone though), and that’s because their target audience was teenagers and kids (again in it’s early years). Toning down the violence in the movie allowed us as kids (i was 8 at the time) to watch it in mass, and because of that it was widely successful and is still in the top 5 box office hits of video game to movie adaptations. But it’s never brought up in articles similar to yours that always dredge up the worst of the worst (Super Mario Bros. et al) and say that there aren’t any “good” video game to movie adaptations when there are, they’ve just been buried under the garbage.

        Definately check out the animated Street Fighter II movie, it doesn’t have the same flaws as the MK one as its violence and tone didn’t need to be pulled back, it’s also well animated, well voice acted, and the fights are nicely choreographed, oh and it has an awesome early 90’s soundtrack.

        Lastly i forgot to bring up the first Pokemon movie, i haven’t seen it since it came out but from what i remember it was at least as good as the show was.

        thanks for replying to my comment despite it being a bit off the mark, this seems like a neat website.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. No need to be sorry – I enjoyed the comment as it made me think. The joy of language is the interpretation of what we’re trying to get across. It’s why we write and respond to people!

          Hmm, I see how you got that from what I said: I was more thinking about the general experience. Not necessarily an emotional one, but one where we can sit back and enjoy it… And most importantly: A film that gamers and non-gamers can enjoy!

          I think the Mortal Kombat film was great and you’re certainly right, there’s that element of cheesy campiness about it… However, they were still severing spines and eating heads back then! But it was highly entertaining 🙂 In terms of the context of this article: I’d have probably –defended– your MK views, because as I mentioned – I think Wreck-It-Ralph was awesome… A film that doesn’t pretend about what it is. It’s straight up fun.

          I’ll definitely be checking out the SF animated movie – Because I love watching those kinds of films. The Pokemon first movie however, I will discount… Simply because it’s based on the anime, which is a separate story to the games. However, Pokemon the First Movie was –awesome– as a kid. I rewatched it a little while back and it was still fun… Especially when the song ‘Brother’ hits!

          And thank you for the comment! – The joy of writing is coming across conflicting views: Though it’s interesting how really our views ended up not that different! Haha 🙂 I knew I’d get some criticism to the article – I wrote it for the debate! Please do check back with 1001Up and check my site out too (GeekOut South-West) if you’re up for discussions 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. The violence was indeed there, but the constant blood that had the colour and volume of cans of paint splattering with every hit wasn’t really what i’d call realistic even in those days (doom was more realistically violent, but nowadays it’s just silly that people were up in arms about either of them).

            anywho, thanks for getting back to me and i will indeed drop in around here and your site too.


            Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s