Friday, March 23, 2007

3 Rules for Choosing a Movie Tie-In game

It used to be that the words Movie Tie-in game were synonymous with disaster. I mean, thinking back to my days playing Atari and Nintendo, there was a long line of horrifyingly bad games that really shook my confidence in gaming itself. But I've recently become a little more optimistic about the prospects of movie-based games after a good run of them, and in thinking about it, I discovered three rules which made choosing between the good and the bad a little bit easier.

The Game adds something new to the story: For instance, The Warriors game starts many months before the movie, so there were many avenues to tell new stories and to enhance the story told in the movie. And in The Godfather: The Game's missions were parallel to those of the movie... you act as a facilitator to the events that other major characters in the series undertake so you again gain a greater understanding of the events of the movie it is based upon. The Thing and Chronicles of Riddick:Escape from Butcher Bay both explore a setting or character at a time that was before or after the events of their respective movies, and again, they came out rather successfully.

The Game features some of the original talent: I've mentioned The Warriors and The Godfather already, two games that not only brought something new to the movies they were spawned from but also had producers who knew that to get the best results, they had to have at least some of the original actors play their roles all over. I think it was this factor which also contributed to the success of the Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay game as well, as Vin Diesel not only did voice work on the game, but founded a production company that coproduced it. Meanwhile, the makers of Reservoir Dogs were only able to get Michael Madsen to come back to reprise his role, and inevitably the game suffered for it. I think an argument could be made that the more willing the actors involved with the movie were to be in the game, the better that game likely is, as their commitment likely indicates that the script was worth doing.

The Game was NOT released around the same time as the movie: Usually, those games that released before or just after the theatrical release of a movie are rather cynical attempts to cash-in on the marketing dollars being put into the film, so the people behind these games (the higher level management) don't really care if they are really good. They'll try to make the best product they can with the time alloted, but in all honesty, much like the tie-in novels, you shouldn't set your expectations too high. Granted there are rare exceptions to this rule. After all, the task of making a game match a movie that is still being put together is a herculean task for even those with the purest of intentions. Whereas a game that is based on a movie that was released a few years ago or longer likely has more time and greater resources to put out a higher quality title, as well as having a finished film (and possible special editions, audio commentaries and other commerically available materials) to work from, and because the decision to make a game comes much later, the people involved most likely really like the movie they are turning into a game so it is almost a labor of love.

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