Say no to movie adaptations!
We see the leap from silver screen to TV screen and the hot little diodes of your PS3 or Xbox all the timeâŚ but why donât we see more taken straight from literature? Thereâs been a few examples, but none have really stood the test of time, and far too many have simply been money-spinners aimed to tack the Greenback on to whatever other media is doing the roundsâŚ **cough** Harry Potter **cough**.
Below are ten books that have had an impact on me, and I think would make superb games. Feel free to comment, agree, disagree, or lambaste me. Healthy debate is what life is all about!
Sabriel (book one of the Old Kingdom trilogy) by Garth Nix
This is the first book I ever read while thinking, âThis would make a kickass game!â and is the reason that the idea for this Top 10 came to me. The premise for the trilogy lends itself extremely well to the medium and could be used to create a masterful adventure-fantasy RPG. Thereâs no movie adaptation of Sabriel or the sequels Lirael and Abhorsen yet, but I should imagine the rights belong to someone somewhere and that a screenplay has been considered. A game could be the next logical step, as we have seen with many other examples.
The Abhorsen is responsible for the control of the Dead. When the Dead break through from their world into the world of the Abhorsen (which is itself separated from a less magical world by a large wall) it is the Abhorsenâs responsibility to reign them in and send them back using one of a set of nine bells, each with their own names and personalities. This is just one part of the action â the ability to control the Dead with these bells: one bell sends the Dead to sleep, for example, while another is used to âbindâ them. Each bell could be obtained on a different character level, so the player could only control relatively weak âDeadhandsâ with the smallest (and most easily obtained) bell. The bells would need to be earned.
The Abhorsen also has a sword (what self-respecting fantasy RPG character doesnât?). Carved on the blade are âCharter marks,â â text from the Charter that controls magic. Charter marks offer another angle, where they are drawn by the Abhorsen to perform certain tasks, as Nix describes. The Wii and DS would be great platforms for this functionality.
I really could just go on and on about this oneâŚ but I wonât.
Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
Discworld games have already appeared for some platforms. Despite this, the Discworld is one literary creation begging to be more fully utilised in the games market. Iâm seeing RPGs, of course, but more than that: SimCity-style Ankh-Morpork builders, real-time strategy games bringing Klatch against Ankh, Guild of Assassin-linked action adventure gamesâŚso much could be done. The Discworld and the lovingly designed Ankh-Morpork will look just gorgeous rendered in the powerful 3D engines now at the disposal of developers.
Guards! Guards! centres on Sam Vimes, captain of the City Watch. Central to the action is the breeding of dragons, and the appalling state of Ankh-Morporkian policing. Letâs see Sam Vimes or one of his small, incompetent team pull their socks up and get their finger on the grimy wrist of Ankh-Morpork to feel her pulse and clean things up.
Imagine a kind of reverse Grand Theft Auto. The crime that goes on in the Discworld is fantastic by nature, so the City Watch needs to respond in kind. This would make a superb action-adventure game and would provide a vehicle for some solid comedy. Throw in some magic and, yes, some dragons, and the Guards! Guards! game is one weâll all want to get our hands on.
âSalemâs Lot by Stephen King
There was no way a list like this could be complete without including at least one from the master of horror. Stephen Kingâs output as an author is as inhuman as some of his best-known and most feared characters and among his work is a wealth of action that could be used in video games. The story of a town slowly being taken over by vampires and the fight-to-survive mentality of an out-of-town writer and a young boy (the only two who get out of the Lot alive) is ripe shoot-âem-up material.
Itâs a no brainer, really, and developers would need to tread carefully to avoid making a Resident Evil rip-off, but between the two playable characters â each with very different abilities (maybe a grown up can bust through a half-tumbled wall in an old barn, but a kid can crawl into a much smaller space) â and the town very slowly being won over by the vampires, I think thereâs plenty to work with.
The slow creep of evil over the town is most of what makes âSalemâs Lot so scary, and this could be implemented in the game fairly easily: let the atmosphere drip like in Silent Hill and let the bodies come apart like so many first-person shooters before it.
Rocco by Sherryl Jordan
This tale of a boy transported into the post-apocalyptic future by Kiwi author Sherryl Jordan wouldnât translate directly into a game storyline, but some of the conceptual stuff (his dreaming of it all before he finds himself there and his learning to live with a hunter-gatherer tribe) could make for some cool themes.
What would look great in a game adaptation is the lead up to Roccoâs transportation, in which he sees flashes of the world where he will soon live. Despite the fact he finds something to like in cave living and manages to hook up, Rocco still wants to get home. This is one of my all-time favourite New Zealand books and would relish the opportunity to help him on his way in a system where the world could really come to life. And Rocco is an accomplished archer, so thereâs your original take on weaponry.
Tomorrow, When the War Began (book one of the Tomorrow series) by John Marsden
An epic series, involving two popular game themes: war and espionage. Six Australian kids living in a backcountry town, fighting an unknown enemy, is certainly uncut turf when it comes to video gaming.
Six main characters give a lot of scope for character playability, and the diary style of the Tomorrow series means that the story is linear enough to have a clear beginning and end. Game chapters could be introduced by cut scene or voice-over. This assumes a Goldeneye-cum-Metal Gear Solid fusion of gunplay and puzzle solving.
A popular device used by Marsden is the kidsâ nutting out a plan to blow something up and then following it through on the sly. Add to this a whole town deserted except for the enemy, and the end goal of saving an entire country whose land is girt by sea, and youâve got a brand new mission-based covert-ops game on your hands.
Gangs of New York by Herbert Asbury
When you saw this in cinemas (yes, it was a book first) you just know you were thinking about how boss it would be to grab a bat and join the fray down there on the Five Points. Well, the book goes into a lot more depth than the movie. This game could be a first person beat-âem-up or an arcade style deal similar to the ancient but classic Double Dragon. Moving your forces around old New York could also look and play fantastically as a territorial strategy/war game in the same vein as the PCâs Close Combat series.
But it doesnât stop at Plug Uglies and Dead Rabbits: Asburyâs work follows the evolution of the gangs right up until the early 1900s, just before the influx of Italian immigrants gave rise to the Mafia. This would be an interesting take on the gangster mythology that has sprung up around this very real, very scary base. We have our Italian mafia games already â letâs see the Irish have a go.
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
A pint-sized criminal mastermind who manages to steal fairy magic is game fodder â plain and simple. But itâs imperative any developer who picks this up (and the film rights are sold, so a game might not be too far away) doesnât fall into the trap as EA did with some of those woeful Harry Potter games. The reason I draw the comparison is that the books were hot tickets around the same time and both dealt with magic.
There are two decent avenues here: one, play as the LEP Recon agent Holly Short as she fights to re-secure the secrets of her kind or, two, play as Artemis Fowl as he seeks to subvert the power of the fairies to his own ends. This game would probably be aimed at a pretty young audience, but would look great as an action-adventure or 3D platformer. What Iâm seeing in my head is a Banjo-Kazooie style, non-linear game, focusing on tricky little puzzles and cartoon battles.
The Sword in the Stone (The Once and Future King series) by T H White
The legend of King Arthur has appeared in many guises â variations on the classic story in books and film, as well as complicated and often unsuccessful allegories. The general idea of a hero being chosen by a divine force (here, a sword embedded in a rock that can only be drawn by a true leader) has been done over and over in video games, but what strikes me about this series isnât this worn theme or even the main character.
Merlyn the magician, the young kingâs tutor, lives his life backwards through time. The first time you meet Merlyn, heâs essentially saying goodbye to you. He can tell you what will happen to you tomorrow (he was just there the day before) but yesterday is still in his future. Itâs a complicated sort of a story to get your head around, but the idea of a fantasy RPG in which youâre working back to the beginning of the plot to stop a tragic event is a fine one.
Cameos by Sir Pellinore and Glatistant the Questing Beast, and some grand old Arthurian swordplay, magic and rich forests and fields will add depth. And donât forget the falconry!
Clave of the Cave Bear (book one of the Earthâs Children series) by Jean M. Auel
This was the only one in her epic six book series that was worth the time of day. The game would have to centre on Ayla, a Cro-Magnon girl who gets separated from her people following an earthquake and winds up living with a group of Neanderthals (Clan of the Cave Bear is set in the Upper Paleolithic era). This was a time of woolly mammoths and (according to Auel) deep superstitions.
The hunter-gatherer theme has been dealt with by Age of Empires, but a game based on this book would need to stick to one period in time, so a Clan of the Cave Bear game could go a lot deeper. An Oregon Trail-type survival game could work, with Ayla travelling with the Neanderthals as she seeks out her own family again. In the book, she becomes a dab hand with the sling, so thereâs some interesting scope for little hunting interludes and protecting her caravan. The Shaman Creb would have to be included, and with todayâs technology, the European Steppes of an Earth long given up to history could be incredibly detailed.
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
Before a certain young wizard went to Hogwarts to learn all there was to know about making feathers float and stopping the worldâs most evil wizard with a heady mix of friendship and love and cuddles, Le Guin had her characters attaching themselves to wizards as apprentices. This would actually be a much more effective way to learn about magic than a school with sentient trees and too many secret corridors to count.
A young apprentice unleashes a darkness into the world of Earthsea when he dabbles in matters well outside his minimum wage pay scale and has to set about putting it right. Le Guin is one of the worldâs most widely read and greatly respected authors of fantasy and sci-fi and plenty of her books would only need a little bit of a fiddle before they could be translated to games. A Wizard of Earthsea, though, needs even less than most.
Photo used courtesy of Mary Pack