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Video Games on the Big Screen

Can video game stories succeed in the feature film format?

Historically, film studios have been wary about putting out too many movies adapted from video games, limiting their releases to pretty much one per year. It's pretty easy to understand why they are so reluctant when you look at the past successes (or, failures) of video game to movie adaptations. You have to go all the way back to 1995's Mortal Kombat to find a Metacritic score above 50/100. The Rotten Tomatoes scores aren't any better, with a maximum of 44% awarded to Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within in 2001. Remember, these examples are the exceptions--the highlights. If you take the full list of US game to movie ports, the average Rotten Tomato score is an abysmal 18%.

Is this the year of change?

This year, a total of four video game titles have film adaptations scheduled for release in theaters: Ratchet & Clank, The Angry Birds Movie, Warcraft, and Assassin's Creed. Does this show a trend of increasing interest in video game adaptations for the big screen?

I think there is great potential for some types of video game plots to succeed in feature films. Any game featuring a catalog of lore that has remained consistent and been built up over multiple game releases should have enough story to keep audiences entertained throughout a full length film, as opposed to trying to craft a movie from something like Mortal Kombat.


The Warcraft universe contains a vast array of important and complex characters that have been developed over the years of Blizzard's Warcraft game titles. I think the key for Warcraft's success in the theaters will be focusing on the characters and plot lines that require the least amount of explanation for those unfamiliar with the lore established by the games. Moviegoers should be able to jump right in to the experience and understand the basic values of the characters that the film introduces, while also forming enough of a connection with those characters that they are motivated to explore the video game universe after the credits roll.

Live action films based on video games like Warcraft and Assassin's creed face some specific challenges in creating an immersive experience. The balance between special effects and live action must be seamless in order for moviegoers to suspend their disbelief. If any of the effects detract from the story, then I'd think that story would have been better told through another game rather than a film.

Fully animated video game adaptations like The Angry Birds Movie and Ratchet & Clank have an advantage in terms of immersion. I think the most important aspect for these titles' success is great voice acting. These video games have less of an established catalog of lore, but their plots feature simpler concepts which should result in a more approachable film, at least when compared to Warcraft or Assassin's Creed.

We'll have to wait and see the films to know for sure, but I hope that at least half of the 2016 releases can manage to be remembered as successes. I'd really like to see more video game stories get the feature film treatment in the future, and it would be great if the ambitious live action projects end up paving the way for a variety of new video game titles to break out on the big screen.

So, take a look at the wiki list of game to movie releases in the US, walk down memory lane, and let us know what your favorite was.

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