Grand Theft Adaptation

An entire issue on a topic as nebulous and daunting, yet as timely as adaptation?

I say timely because of the recent upswing of games released alongside their movie counterparts. Everyone who went to see the Book to Big Screen adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the theater, can pop by the local game store (by way of the chocolatier) to take all the zany, delicious fun home.

But how many will actually buy the game? And of those that do, how many will enjoy the game? Is it made to enhance the Canon of Games or just a marketing tool made to enhance the Canon of Stuff used to promote the feature film?

Everything I’ve read about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the game, just feels like, unfortunately, it might be the latter of the two Canons. I find this depressing. I read Dahl’s books as a child and loved them. Despite its differences from the books, the old version of the movie still holds nostalgic value for me. And the new movie, that kept some of the slightly irreverent-but-not-in-a-negative-way tone of the books, was delightful.

Yet, even with this lifetime of fandom, I cannot even think about owning or playing the game. Why? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a book about the importance of the innocence of childhood, the importance of family, and of integrity as something that starts with, but does not end with, grown-ups. And while I fully believe that videogames will have the capability to deliver themes like these, in a way that does them justice, in the future – we are just not at that state of the industry right now.

But we will never get to that state of the industry until we go through the growing pains we are currently experiencing. We, developers, licensors and gamers alike, are all learning what translates well and what should not be translated at all. Whether the results are fantastic or atrocious, the process is necessary to ensure the proper growth, the strongest growth of the industry. That is, after all, the point of adaptation.

To that end, in this issue, you will find many different writers’ takes on the topic of adaptation. Tom Chick speaks to the multitude of movie crossovers of late, while Allen Varney, in speaking with Warren Spector, relates a more broad view on the role of adaptation in the industry. Joe Blancato explores a unique subset of games – those that adapt themselves to the player. Enjoy these articles and more in this week’s issue of The Escapist.

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