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  • Super Growing Pains: Are Video Games Bad for Comics?

    [09.19.08]
    - Albert T. Ferrer

  •  At this year's San Diego Comic-Con, Zack Snyder director of comic adapted films such as 300 and Watchmen was asked about his thoughts on comic book-based video games on a panel that featured other notable filmmakers such as Kevin Smith, Judd Apatow, and Frank Miller.

    He acknowledged at first some failures, citing the 300 video game as a quick tie-in that he had little to no involvement with. "The 300 video game was a PSP video game. It wasn't really a giant video game that you know -- people didn't go crazy for it. No online play, no communities were formed, I don't think. "

    He also spoke about the upcoming Watchmen video game, it's development, and the developers willingness to make changes with his suggestions.

    "We had quite a lot of back and forth. They sent me a script for it, and you know, it's one of those things where you get a script for it, and you're like, ‘Okay, not to be mean, but this is the dorkiest thing that I've ever seen in my life.' It had nothing to do with Watchmen, and it wasn't cool at all. So we tried to rewrite it and tried to do something good, and those guys were really open to make it more ‘Watchmeny,' whatever that even means. We tried to come up with an idea that is a little more like a video game where, you know, ‘Kill Woodward and Bernstein,' is a cooler game. We tried to do something more subversive, and more like the Watchmen world."

    Snyder continued, "I play video games
    and I think video games are the other hand. And I think right now, video games that are made for movies are not talking to each other.  There is a dialogue that needs to be established between filmmakers and video games so that it's not an afterthought. It's not marketing. A video game should not be marketing. To me it's not."

    Frank Miller, who was also on the same panel, spoke on adaptations a
    nd the importance of using a medium the way it's suppose to be used. The artist, writer, and now film director of the upcoming The Spirit, knows exactly what it's like to be doing the adapting and coming from drawings and panels, to the world of live-action filmmaking.

    "First you pay attention to the real truths
    about what a story is, what a character is, and how a story is told. There's no reason for a movie based on a comic book to use panels. You use every medium for its own advantages. At first I went crazy with sound and movement. I had been doing boxes with words over [the characters'] heads. And my idea of an explosion was writing ‘boom.'"

    Though Snyder's and Miller's comments received applause from those in attendance, it's easier said than done.

    Development and Output, East and West
    The lack of care for these games is made obvious by the condensed development cycles. Making a game in tandem with shooting and producing a movie hinders the end product. The best practices of game development require a very different schedule. Ed Boon echoes this reality: "One of the problems is that both the movie and the game are being produced at the same time. Each side is busy working on their own project. Sometimes this causes conflict, as the movie people might make a change to their film, perhaps removing a scene or character. This change could result in months of lost time for the video game team that might have to rework their game to match the movie."


    Why isn't Hollywood talent flocking to games? Though actors have actively been taking part in video games for years through voice-over work and appearances, the talent behind the camera still does not seem very common. Do video games still lack respect from those within Hollywood? Certainly, the medium itself has been known for telling some of the most engaging stories and heroic tales that rival any movie, or novel. An array of titles from Kojima, Miyamoto, Square-Enix, Capcom, Konami, and Epic are all widely acclaimed to be moving story-driven experiences. Games from these major industry developers have demonstrated incredible knowledge when creating narratives within the interactive media, time and time again.

    So why doesn't this happen with the comic book world?

    Dr. Klock thinks it's a matter of reputation. "As for getting talent on video games, I just think that they don't have the storytelling prestige they eventually will. ... I don't really know why [comic book writers] do not write for the games yet. I bet eventually they will. It would be interesting to see comparative prices for writing for games versus comics."


    While adaptations are nothing new to the world of interactive entertainment, the Japanese game industry has had more success with bringing its comics (Manga) to games, with many popular franchises -- Bleach, Naruto, Digimon, Dragon Ball Z, Full Metal Alchemist, Gundam, Inu Yasha -- benefitting from international success.

    Except for but a few, these IPs appear in more than one medium. The comic-to-screen-to-game lifecycle is a large part of Japan's entertainment industry. And each incarnation is treated with more or less the same level of quality and consistency.

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