Death of the Critic

Movies and Games

Written by: Tom Blaich

Like many of my peer in the critical space, my interests follow a certain path of pop culture and pop media. I love everything from books, to music, to movies, to games, and more. And fortunately for myself, I was born at what is perhaps the most perfect time in the world to enjoy these mediums, as a huge growth of creativity is taking place, a veritable Cambrian explosion of creativity and tech for me to play with. Unfortunately, the one are in which this innovation is lacking is with movie tie-in games, a genre oft overlooked by fans, and for very good reason.

Traditionally, the movie tie-in has been the target for derision as it has been treated as a quick cash grab by developers and studios, often having sub par graphics, sub par gameplay, and a story that is barely expanded from that of the movie. And this is really unfortunate for people like me who love both movies and games, as these games give the studio the opportunity to more fully flesh out the world in which the game exists, giving it more depth and character than what can be shown on screen in only two hours.

Fortunately, not all movie tie ins are completely terrible. In fact, some of them are even pretty good, or great, because they allow themselves to break the box that the movie places them into. The
Harry Potter games are a perfect example of this. As the games progressed from the first one on, they opened up more and more of Hogwarts for you character to explore, instead of just forcing you along the same path that Harry went through in the movies. By allowing you to explore and duel, it gave the world a sense of life that could not be accomplished in either the books or the movies.

This is the strength of games that we should explore even further, that of interactivity. When reading a book, the reader has some hand in the work, however limited, through the use of imagination, creating scenes and characters within their mind, giving each person’s reading experience their own bit of uniqueness to the work. But as media became more and more complex, the role of the reader became less and less. With movies, there is little to no imagination left, as the movie’s world exists only within what you can see on the screen.

Some movies are better at building their universe than others are. Like
Harry Potter, which lends much of its world building to the books that it is based on, or The Lego Movie, which creates multiple different environments, each with their own distinct feel, aided by their basis in popular culture.

Video games could be viewed as the ultimate culmination of these ideas, with the reader taking an active role in the story, either through player choice in a role playing game, or through the interaction with the game world usually over the barrel of a gun. This interactivity allows the user to explore and expand the world, taking the best features of movies, and the best features of books and combing them into an experience all its own.

By giving this treatment to certain movies, the creators can mold the world more, creating new characters, stories, and ideas, while the players can experience the world more fully, with these new stories and places allowing the fans to enjoy the world more.

And while of course this would be a more costly strategy for the studio and developer to undertake, as it requires more work and development to create a good game than an adequate game, it is beneficial for the studio in the long run. Fans are waiting to buy a game that lives us to the universe that they love, A good game directly correlates to better sales for the studio, and if the fans are happy they are more likely to purchase merchandise and other media, and they might even bring new fans into the fold.

There are dozens of movies that deserve a good treatment like this, too many to list today, but in general, a movie fits the criteria for a good game if it has three basic things:

A reasonably well developed world

World building that is already present will allow for expansion that does not feel out of place.

A possibility for expansion of story

You don’t want to limit the game’s story to what is on screen. Many cookie-cutter action films don’t really fit this as the singular threat does not allow for expansion  

Strong characters

Strong protagonists and villains allow for believable and engaging conflict which keeps the player attentive.

Hopefully in the future, we can see more movie adaptations following this “innovative” idea of quality so that we as fans can enjoy the fruits of the creators even more.


Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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