I'm gonna go ahead and admit straight out that I have an almost unshakable dislike towards movie-licensed games. In the same way that certain people are (often unfairly) judged by the legal system as guilty until proven innocent, I look at movie-based games as bad until proven good. I don't know exactly how this notion got cemented in my brain, but there's no denying it. I've tried to trace it back to some specific experience, but I just can't come up with anything. All I know is that I have a universally negative knee jerk reaction to movie-licensed video games.
I haven't played very many of them (mostly because I assume they'll be a complete waste of my time), so my stance isn't based on much experience. Let's see how many movie-based games I can think of right now. Aladdin for the Sega Genesis. I really enjoyed that game at the time. Back to the Future for the NES. Fantastic Four on the GameCube. Batman Begins. The Da Vinci Code. Played it, hated it. That's all I can think of. So far this doesn't really account for my position, because in the case of the last three games mentioned, I actually recall carrying a pretty strong anti-movie-based-game bias going in. As for the really old stuff for the 8- and 16-bit systems, I was much younger, and those were different times.
Is there at least some justification for my prejudice? Maybe I should try going pseudo-scientific here and take a trip over to Metacritic. I'll just search for the first movie-licensed titles that pop into my head. WALL-E. Scored a 51. Batman Begins. 64. Madagascar. 64. Iron Man. 45. Incredible Hulk. 55. Prince Caspian. 56. Those are some crappy numbers. I don't care what anybody says, if Iron Man scores a 45 on Metacritic, I don't need to play it to know that it's a waste of time. So yeah, there looks to be some strong evidence out there for the suckiness of movie games, but I can't say that the low scores are the reason for my dislike of them.
I think what it might come down to is that whenever I see a movie-licensed game, I tend to immediately assume that it was mindlessly cranked out by the developer as a quick cash in. And I think in most cases that's pretty close to the truth. While there are probably exceptions to this, it seems to me that making a video game specifically to coincide with the release of a movie is one of the most creatively bankrupt and baldly commercial endeavors imaginable. I have a hard to believing that anything made under such circumstances could be good, let alone artistically worthwhile. I love the movie WALL-E, but even without knowing it's Metascore I don't think anyone could pay me enough to play the game.
As someone who occasionally reviews video games, I know that I should be more open minded. I realize that I probably dislike these games more than they deserve (crappy though they undoubtedly are most of the time) and probably shouldn't dismiss the whole lot of them. I know I've heard tell of there being good video games based on movies, like Chronicles of Riddick, which is kind of ironic because by most accounts the movie is actually pretty shitty. Maybe only shitty movies can be turned into good games.
Another aspect to this is that games are just so fundamentally different than movies. If I were a developer and someone came to me and said I want you to make Prince Caspian the game, I'd be thinking, "God, what a horrible task." The two mediums are completely different, and the elements that make a great film may have little to no relationship to the elements that make a great game. Prince Caspian isn't exactly a great film, but I think my point still holds. Iron Man, for example, is a good movie mostly because Robert Downey Jr. is so hilarious in it. How the hell does that carry over to a video game? I'm a firm believer that video games are best when conceived as games from the ground up, not when they're based on source material from another medium.
Am I wrong? Does anyone feel the same way? Are there cases in which movies provide a good creative foundation for a video game?
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