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Old 10-05-2011, 08:26 AM   #1
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Award winning author asks: 'Why aren't more books turned into games?'

Christopher Fowler is an English thriller writer responsible for numerous horror, satire and crime novels - and he's curious why more books like his haven't been turned into video games.

Well, if a game can take 'War Of The Worlds' to places that a multi-million dollar movie couldn't (although I'm a fan of both films, they only represent the book in the broadest manner), where can a game take a book?

Imagine a game of JG Ballard's 'High Rise' in which the residents of a tower block go to war with one another. Imagine a game of MR James' 'Casting The Runes', in which the hero must get rid of runic symbols or be consumed by the Devil? FYI, they've been trying to make a movie out of 'High Rise' for years, and 'Casting The Runes' was brilliantly filmed as 'Night Of The Demon' - but that was half a frickin' century ago! Imagine what a game could do with the premise now.

http://www.computerandvideogames.com...ed-into-games/


as a gamer i'm also surprised that there haven't been more books adapted into games. there are so many good literary ideas that would be perfect for an interactive format. theres plenty of books based on games, how about the opposite? instead of numerous false starts on a movie based on lovecraft's work for example, how about more game adaptations where you have the time and detail the works require. at the mountains of madness to tough to film? well why not a survival-horror video game? the dark tower too expensive to produce? well why not make it a 40 hour long rpg then?

same for the gaming industry. if they want to do a zombie game why are they not acquiring the rights to keene's city of the dead? a vampire game? knight's vampire earth series would be perfect.

i'm sure there are also many authors who would jump at the chance to do the plot and story in a game as opposed to the bargain basement, written by an intern approach the gaming industry currently takes.

unless its a bestselling novel, the entire publishing industry seems to be the elephant in the room when it comes to other entertainment media.
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Old 10-05-2011, 09:16 AM   #2
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I believe there is a target audience problem.

Usual gamers are very young and young people only read because school forces them to. (I'm obviously talking averages - there are book-loving kids and gamers in their 30s, 40s and even some in their 50s or more, but they are exceptions)

So, a potential buyer of a video-game is likely to be familiar with the characters and plot of a recent movie, but he won't know anything about the most recent book.

Obviously, MVHO!

Ciao

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Old 10-05-2011, 09:32 AM   #3
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as a gamer i'm also surprised that there haven't been more books adapted into games. there are so many good literary ideas that would be perfect for an interactive format. theres plenty of books based on games, how about the opposite?.
I'd love to see BioWare put out a 40+ hours game based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work myself, but I just don't think the target audience for literary games is there. Look at how "Dante's Inferno" flopped. (Granted it was awful, and had virtually nothing to do with the classic book other than the title.)
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Old 10-05-2011, 10:31 AM   #4
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Usual gamers are very young and young people only read because school forces them to. (I'm obviously talking averages - there are book-loving kids and gamers in their 30s, 40s and even some in their 50s or more, but they are exceptions)

So, a potential buyer of a video-game is likely to be familiar with the characters and plot of a recent movie, but he won't know anything about the most recent book.
I imagine that if the game is good, and marketed well, it may get some of these younger gamers to actually read the book the game is based off of. Especially in the case of Keene's "City of the Dead" (or any of his zombie novels, since zombie games are still devoured anymore). The game could be great, and it may turn some of the players on to the books.

Of course, there was also a Call of Cthulu game that came out on PC and Xbox, and that was a pretty cool game (although there were some minor faults). It was nifty to see some of the Lovecraft stuff make it into a game.
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Old 10-05-2011, 10:46 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Kubizo View Post
I believe there is a target audience problem.

Usual gamers are very young and young people only read because school forces them to. (I'm obviously talking averages - there are book-loving kids and gamers in their 30s, 40s and even some in their 50s or more, but they are exceptions)
I'm not sure about that, I was under the impression most gamers are in the range of 20-35 for core games with a more significant number of "gamers" in the 40+ market when you include casual games and flash games.

Your point about gamers been more familiar with movies than books though may apply across the entire age range and might explain the reluctance?

Be interesting to see if anyone can pull up some published data on the various market splits by age. Had a quick google but nothing stood out.

imho, it probably comes down to gamers not been too bothered about lots of narrative, they want to get into the action and gameplay. Exceptions may be the RPG segment, but they tend to be non-linear which would increase the work involved in taking a book and using it as a basis for the game. It may turn out cheaper to have new unique content created rather than license and adjust work from an existing author?

Last edited by JoeD; 10-05-2011 at 10:52 AM.
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Old 10-05-2011, 10:55 AM   #6
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I imagine that if the game is good, and marketed well, it may get some of these younger gamers to actually read the book the game is based off of.
True, but where's the incentive for the software house? Companies making games are out to make money, not to convince young people to read. Why would they pay royalties on a book if it's actually the GAME that will spread the book and not viceversa?
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Old 10-05-2011, 11:00 AM   #7
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I'm not sure about that, I was under the impression most gamers are in the range of 20-35 for core games with a more significant number of "gamers" in the 40+ market when you include casual games and flash games.
You're entirely correct. It's an urban myth that games are for children that don't want to read. The average age of game players in USA is around 35. The average age of game buyers is around 39. There's a reason why the games industry has surpassed every other entertainment industry when it comes to pure revenue; games cost more and now the average gamer is old enough to buy just about any game he wants.

Might as well dispel another common myth while I'm at it; roughly 40% of all "gamers" are women.

You can find the study I referenced in this post at http://www.theesa.com/facts/index.asp but there's many, many more out there if you google for them. The fact that people still consider gamers to be anti-social, teenage boys is somewhat sad considering the industry's development in not just financial but also creative terms.
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Old 10-05-2011, 11:22 AM   #8
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Very interesting, thanks a lot for busting a couple of myths for me. I've been on this forum for a couple of days and I've already learned a lot! :-)

Ciao!
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Old 10-05-2011, 11:47 AM   #9
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Very interesting, thanks a lot for busting a couple of myths for me. I've been on this forum for a couple of days and I've already learned a lot! :-)

Ciao!
Quite alright mate, I'm new here myself. It's a very common myth that seems to perpetuate thanks to, mostly, other mediums. Whenever you see a gamer in a hollywood movie he fits the archaic stereotype, same with books.

To answer the OPs question; there's far more books that I like than games, despite being not just an avid gamer but also a game developer. The basic fact is this; non-interactive fiction does not translate well into interactive fiction (or vice versa). It really isn't any harder than that. That's why almost -all- movies that get turned into games stink, and why all games turned into movies smell even worse.

Now, there are exceptions to this rule. There's a vast quantity of Dungeons and Dragons novels and that's a franchise that has been avidly licensed by a variety of games companies. The difference between a D&D novel and Seven suns? The former was written in the context of an interactive sequence while the latter was not.

Let me give you an even better example of why non-interactive fiction has absolutely no place in the games industry. FMV (Full Motion Video) games. They were a desperate attempt to turn games into movies. I have absolutely no idea why, except that movies used to generate more revenue than games. The concept absolutely bombed since what players want is interactivity, not cinematic sequences.

This can be directly translated to the topic of books. What would you expect out of a a game that licensed, say, the Belgariad by Eddings? Would you expect to play Rand? But then what? Do you just slavishly follow the novels? Any interactivity you get is an illusion that would quickly be dismissed by most players (we're notoriously picky after all). Observe the game Heavy rain, which was extremely interactive yet you had almost no freedom at all.

The length of my post is getting out of hand (again, something about this forum that just makes me want to type). Let me end with this; there is a market for book licenses, but the games would have to license the concept or the world that the book takes place in. Trying to translate a book directly into gameplay is doomed to failure before the project has even begun, for the reasons stated above.
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Old 10-05-2011, 01:08 PM   #10
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True, but where's the incentive for the software house? Companies making games are out to make money, not to convince young people to read. Why would they pay royalties on a book if it's actually the GAME that will spread the book and not viceversa?
Right now, it wouldn't be a bad idea to make a game based on some zombie fiction. There's plenty of money to be made in such a game. A good story would be a fantastic launching point for a zombie game if put in the hands of a competent developer (like Rocksteady, creators of Batman: Arkham Asylum/City, for example). Sure, they'd be paying royalties/licensing fees for the book, but if the game is good, people will buy it, and they'll make money.
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Old 10-05-2011, 01:47 PM   #11
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Mostly because creating the world / story is one of the more interesting aspects of game design, so game developers are unlikely to outsource it.

One does get series though, like Star Wars and Star Trek making the cross-over.

That said, it would make for much better stories / worlds --- in particular, C.J. Cherryh's Morgaine stories seem custom-made for a role-playing game w/ multiple instances.

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Old 10-05-2011, 01:51 PM   #12
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Right now, it wouldn't be a bad idea to make a game based on some zombie fiction. There's plenty of money to be made in such a game. A good story would be a fantastic launching point for a zombie game if put in the hands of a competent developer (like Rocksteady, creators of Batman: Arkham Asylum/City, for example). Sure, they'd be paying royalties/licensing fees for the book, but if the game is good, people will buy it, and they'll make money.
Wouldn't that just be the next incarnation of Resident Evil?
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Old 10-05-2011, 02:00 PM   #13
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Developers would love to make book-based games. It gives you pretty much everything in a nice box, lets you be creative within limits and with certain assurances if you stick within expectation/abstraction. Over ambitious creativity often costs a lot of time and money - developers have neither.

The real problem comes in with finances; developers are essentially rather poor in the grand scheme of things,the ones that have money have passed success that is normally tied up by publishers, ditching the publisher and going it alone is extremely risky and with the track record you have, its easier to just keep on churning old IP.

Until some 'book' publishers (and not those huge full spectrum guys) want to get serious and get talented developers and muscle their way into the market, it's something that you're just not going to see as there's no large passed success stories outside of Harry Potter. In the mid 90's book-based games were far more common as the pace of games was also more moderate and gamers did not follow such narrow social trends (which have pretty much killed 'good' games :/).

On the other hand, a lot of newer 'AAA' games are releasing novels based on the IP around release cycles - quality is somewhat turbulent.
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Old 10-05-2011, 02:29 PM   #14
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Wouldn't that just be the next incarnation of Resident Evil?
How do you mean? Resident Evil wasn't about zombies, it was about a corporation engineering bio-weapons. One of the monsters created happened to be a zombie. And it wasn't a book before it became a game.
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Old 10-05-2011, 02:37 PM   #15
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^It was a bit of a joke remark by me. I didn't think it needed a smilie.

No it wasn't a book, but spawned a series of books. And having played a couple of incarnations, it just fit the zombie feel to me. Well, zombie and hellhound and crazy things in the water feel.

I totally think there are some great options from books for games. It's just going to take some creative minds to determine how each can make the other stronger in the marketplace. We've been through a lot of movies to games that didn't really work that well which makes me think the transition from book to game might not go that well either in a lot of cases.
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