Okay. So, a pre-existing work on which to create a video game... Wow. This is going to kill me. My OCD will not handle this well. There is just too many damn work’s that I would like to make into a game.
Obviously, my first move is to take a list of my favourite literature pieces. Straight off the top of my head, here we go:
  • Ishmael – Daniel Quinn:
Hmmm... This is certainly a good one for a challenge – awesome book but described almost unanimously as unadaptable – that god-awful movie version/”homage” (Instinct – Anthony Hopkins, Cuba Gooding Jr) is testament enough to that. So what was it that actually went wrong with that anyway? Hopkins is almost always good... Alright, well Ishmael: A story about a young, bland (read: everyman) character who one day sees an interesting ad in a newspaper about saving the world. He responds to it clearly out of curiosity, going to the location specified, which he is surprised to see is an entire empty, abandoned level of a building. He decides to leave but soon hears a voice, and is even more surprised to find himself face to face with a giant talking gorilla. Heheh, I just love that. Whenever I’m telling someone about this book, this is always the part where they tune out – deciding that it’s clearly some goddamn kid’s story book. Anyways, the book continues with the gorilla (named Ishmael) explaining his origins to the guy, and then he pretty much tells the guy everything that humans are doing wrong with the world. And they discuss. Philosophy ensues. I guess kind of like Sophie’s World.
Okay so this book has won numerous awards, it’s got like a cult following and everything, there’s even a statue of Ishmael the gorilla out the front of Georgia University (I think) as well, and so the rights for the book sell really well and quickly. Unfortunately no one has a goddamn clue what to do with the text. They eventually make it into a movie about a crazy, wild man who’s been arrested for murdering a bunch of hunters, and his defense lawyer who tries to figure out what this guy’s deal is. I think the problem is that the book really is just a conversation. A long conversation, about important, but often too overwhelming a topic. And everyone’s too scared to make a movie about a discussion (despite the fact there is some incredibly successful and incredible precedents for it, eg. The Conversation). It would work in the vein of Before Sunrise, or actually even, Waking Life, because essentially the whole thing is philosophy. The thing is, I do actually think I could make a damn fine movie out of it, I’ve been thinking about that since I watched Instinct. In terms of a game though... I think it would suffer from what a lot of the James Bond game franchise suffers from - it would be hard to keep it from getting too ‘bitsy’. It would not end up as a complete, holistic, solid game – it would be a collection of inconsistent, too unfocussed puzzle-like ‘toys’ which don’t really fit together nicely. Kind of like the game design equivalent of “sitting on the fence” – there would be no single unifying belief or vision to keep it together. Certainly there’s some brilliant metaphors for complex systems and ideas in the text, and they would be really fun to design mini-games around, but I think that’s probably it. It probably would make a really successful flash-based mini-game fansite for Ishmael, but that’s it. I think.
  • Okay so next up, anything by Vonnegut.
Ummm, Cat’s Cradle? You know what? Vonnegut, my favourite author, and honestly NOTHING is coming to mind. Nothing. I think, I just like Vonnegut too much in book form. I have no desire to try and murder that text.
  • The Jason Bourne series.
Man, these are pure gold. I often have thought about making a game out of them. Of course Sierra already took a crack at it, and while it didn’t suck completely, it didn’t really have anything to do with the books. The movies are goddamn fantastic, up there with my favourites, but once again they don’t go anywhere near the novels. Completely different story. And so the story hasn’t really been done – neither in movie or game form. Actually I tell a lie. Ooop – two lies. There was a mini-series version from the 70’s with Richard Chamberlain that, although it’s quite dated, was pretty damn close to the book. Also, I think in a way the game has already been done – Ubisoft’s XIII. That’s how I imagine a game version being.

Okay, so while I know that I haven’t really got in-depth about what a game version of any of these would entail yet, I think it’s because none of them are really feeling original or anything to me. I want something challenging. Like Pride and Prejudice was for us in Arash’s class. That turned out pretty exciting.
  • Another book that springs to mind is Lord of the Flies.
Now this is one of my all-time favourites. Back in the 90’s I remember I played a text-based version of some Lord of the Flies thing. I think that it was more of a study-guide type thing than a game per se. And also there’s this pretty sweet flash-based “game” online. Once again, a study-guide rather than a game. While I love the story, I can’t help thinking that it would be turn out kind of like Ubisoft’s LOST game. Which sucked. I can appreciate the challenge they had (well, because it’s the same one we have) – staying true to the spirit of something without purely ‘transcribing’ it into an adventure game where you follow the plot action for action. I’ve played those games before, and while I enjoy the first level or two, purely on a fan-boy level, it gets really old really quick. I think the “Enter The Matrix” game did it well, (although it’s been made clear to me that I’m supposedly alone in thinking that), but I think that was cheating really, because the game was made simultaneously with the second two-films and so they left large blanks for the game to capitalise and inform on. But yeah, if I ignore that little factoid, I suppose maybe there’s something else I could learn from it. Well, the main characters in the game were not the main character’s in the movie, and I do think that’s a good move. A game character seems to work best when he’s unestablished enough that he’s a tabula rasa for whatever the hell you wanna play him as. We saw Niobe and Ghost in the films, so we know that they belong in the story, which certainly helps. That’s another thing that was just wrong with the LOST adaptation. They didn’t want to be disrespectful to the existing plot or anything, and so they created a character from scratch and just ‘slotted him in’ to the show. This game them freedom to go where they wanted with him, but it unfortunately, just didn’t feel like LOST. I think they perhaps should have taken a really minor character that we have seen from the episodes, and just fleshed that out. I feel that would have worked better.

Ooh, Rockstar Games’ The Warriors. Genius adaptation. Immensely re-playable, firmly and unashamedly rooted in the source material, and original enough that you’re not just following events from the film. Also, it certainly helps that the character’s were never hugely developed in the film, so there’s a lot of room for character development. I guess this game should be my “exhibit A” of successful adaptation (I know it’s from a film, but the film is actually an adaptation of a book, and incidentally the entire story is a re-telling of the 300 Spartans story). Yep, very happy with that game. Probably one of my all-time favourites. I love the art, I love the mood, funky style, and I love the game mechanics.
Anyways, I know where this is going now. I have explored a couple of other likely narratives, and while they’ve been quite promising, I think I know what I would like to work on.

I actually got deadlocked on two for a while – I couldn’t decide between them. For a while I was quite excited about a game adaptation of “Oedipus”. I found myself deeply amused at the possibility, and even know what I would title the game. “Motherf*cker.” Simple. To the point. Catchy. I sat with that idea for a few days, but eventually I’ve decided to backburner that. (Yes – I actually have plans of maybe coming back to it at a later date – it’s just too cool). Anyways, I eventually came to some kind of decision on what I would like to do.

Certainly in my top 3 books of all time – J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. I think what’s actually attracting me to it, is that I have no idea how I’m going to do it. It’s a goddamn challenge. I mean, ever since it was published people have been very vocal about the belief that it is unadaptable. Salinger, even, unless I’m mistaken, at some point expressed horror at the idea of an adaptation. Of course, Holden himself would be goddamn anti- a film, let alone a video game! I think I’m committed, though now.... I can feel it just here..... yep – there it is..... a little bit of commitment...

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    Steven Colbourne is a carbon-based life-form with opposable thumbs and a fairly advanced respiratory system which removes carbon dioxide and provides oxygen to the blood. He is covered in a layer of protective tissue that scientists refer to as skin. He can not breathe underwater or dislocate his jaw in order for him to swallow meals larger than his mouth.

    He has never been played by two-time Oscar nominee Harvey Keitel.


    May 2010