“MEÐIUM ÐIFFICULTY”

Photo credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment / Ninja Theory

Today’s announcement was originally reserved for another series I have in the works, but because said other series is both more ambitious and—as of this writing—concerns works (videogames, to be specific) which have not yet been released for public consumption, I have opted to introduce you instead to “MEÐIUM ÐIFFICULTY.”

The series, despite its concern being both games and film, has a much simpler aim than the above-mentioned game-specific series, which is to measure the success of silver screen game adaptations with faithfulness to the games at hand as the sole criterion.

Now, I am not holding to “adaptation” in the strict sense, of course; as there are rarely honest-to-goodness adaptations of game scripts themselves (such as, for instance, the upcoming-or-maybe-not film remake of The Last of Us), I would undoubtedly strain to locate subjects which qualify. If a film interpretation bears the name of its source material, however, regardless how little narrative resemblance there may be, is only right that it be held not only to the standard of said material but also the character and even, perhaps, the intent. Otherwise why fly the flag, besides for the spoils?

The problem with game adaptations is, as has been repeated ad nauseam, the inescapability that they remove games’ defining attribute: interaction. A “videogame film” thus has only the game’s narrative, world and aesthetic to adapt, and in the majority of cases a game’s writing is its poorest or thinnest component, depending on its fictive targets. Games overly or overtly “cinematic”, such as The Last of Us, or which literally comprise cinema via in-game cinematics (cutscenes), make the most adaptational sense (it’s easy) while also making the least. (If the game is already essentially a film, albeit with interstices of audience participation, the “translation” from one medium to the other will instead border on duplication).

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, for all its missed swings (it was all missed swings), at least assumed the correct fighting stance here: it was not an adaptation of, nor did it try to “translate”, the as-yet-unreleased Final Fantasy XV. It was a companion piece which attempted to flesh out the world and fiction of its source material while providing an otherwise autonomous story calibrated specifically for a passive medium. All videogame films should do likewise, in my opinion, because the moment Kratos inevitably performs “square square triangle” on the big screen is the moment of concession on the part of the filmmakers—an implicit though not necessarily conscious acknowledgement of the adaptational impasse between active (interactive) and passive media—which needn’t be made.

In Ninja Theory’s 2007 character action game, Heavenly Sword, which seven years later became a film, though half of the game already was a film, protagonist Nariko brandishes the titular weapon at a grave cost: the sword guarantees her access to its gruesome celestial power so as to save her family and tribe, but it will destroy her the instant the task is complete. Game-to-film adaptations wield namesakes without either of these certainties, yet whether they realize it or not, are bound by a similar pact. The firebrand, it goes, is not to forget what gives it its fire—and neither are we.

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