31 May 2015
The past few years has seen television rise to the top of the entertainment world, with HBO and AMC leading the way worldwide. HBO started to make a name for itself after the success of The Sopranos and The Wire in the early parts of the last decade. Even then it wasn’t something that you were completely familiar with outside of America. However, thanks to other smash hits – Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead – the names of HBO and AMC are far more ingrained in the modern day conversation today.
So why is it that, although the television sector could not be more popular than it is right now, game developers are not trying to create more television-related games?
Game of Thrones has a slots game based on it, which is actually quite fun, and is available at sites like 32Red and SlotSquad, as well as a video game series, for which three of six episodes have been released. The final three will be released by the time the year is out. But GOT is a rare exception.
Most TV shows don’t even come close to being discussed as potential video games because, although shows like GOT and The Walking Dead lend themselves perfectly to gaming, the majority of shows simply wouldn’t cut it and the past has proven that these sorts of games are not exactly money makers. The CSI games are a good measuring stick. In theory it sounded like something that would do rather well but the appeal of murder-solving just didn’t translate mediums as well as anticipated. The game’s overall quality didn’t help matters and gamers are picky- if they know a game isn’t good, regardless of their television preferences, they will probably pass it up. A poorly received game is a blemish that untarnished shows would rather avoid.
With the quality of script writing in modern games (which are practically television shows in their own right) would a popular television story be able to stand up? At first glance you would have to say yes. But upon delving a little deeper doubts do start to occur. What works on television doesn’t fit perfectly to gaming narratives. Storylines have to be changed, with new ones being drafted. That is a process that the show’s original writers will want to play no part in. Therefore it is likely that this new, standalone plot is more than likely to be written by a different bunch of writers, meaning that the storyline will probably be lacking in quality.
And when you are in a world with stories as rich as GTA V and Call Of Duty, you have to come up with something special to make it worthwhile. The casts those games are capable of getting speaks for itself – Samuel L. Jackson played a prominent role in GTA: San Andreas and Kevin Spacey is the main antagonist of the latest COD. Sadly, the best gaming writers work for the biggest games, meaning that any game adapted from television will most probably struggle to stand up to established gaming titles. Could GOT really go up against The Elder Scrolls?
History has shown that there is a very large gulf between these two entertainment fields. Television struggles to permeate into the gaming world while, whenever a game makes it to Hollywood, its reception is usually tepid at best (case in point Prince of Persia). There is, however, a chance that this may soon change.
This fall will see the Steven Spielberg-produced television adaptation of the hugely popular Xbox game Halo hit the screens. If the show is a success then it could drastically cut the gap between the two industries. Television companies may be tempted to bring more games to the smaller screen, where the complex game narratives can unravel in a similarly serialized medium, rather than be simplified and condensed for a 90-minute movie. And maybe, just maybe, that same door will begin to swing the other way until we can play The Wire on our Xbox.