Books are a great medium to draw inspiration from. We see many games based on movies, but these are often unsatisfactory. However, when games take inspiration from books, they’re frequently done very well. Why is this? I believe it’s because books are a medium which encourages a consumer to lose themselves in a world. Depending on the length of the book, a reader can spend 30-40 hours adrift in a foreign land with expansive characters and deep themes.
Sounds a lot like another popular medium. There is a large parallel between reading and gaming. The process of adapting a book into a game seems like a no-brainer to me. When you watch a movie, you spend an hour and a half or two hours in the story. A game and book each allow you to engross yourself much more thoroughly. Here I’ll discuss a few of my favorite video game adaptions, which took inspiration from various pieces of literature.
The Witcher Series
To no one’s surprise, The Witcher series is the first one I wish to discuss. The Witcher games were based on the book series written by Polish writer, Andrzej Sapkowski under the same name. Not dissimilar to the games, the book series is about Geralt of Rivia and his adventures as a Witcher fighting deadly beasts. The tales were first published as short stories in a Polish monthly fantasy and science fiction magazine. Despite how popular the games are, Sapkowski is infamous for not liking them. As the games have taken many liberties and outweighed the popularity of the books.
Can we blame the guy? The Witcher series was his baby, it must be tough to see such an adaptation vary from the original source material, especially when he does not have the rights for royalties. Regardless, The Witcher games have received various rewards and are some of the best RPGs to date. Most recently The Witcher 3 shattered the mold on video games. It tried new things, and succeed in almost every aspect. It’s exceptionally fun and violently addictive.
The Metro series of games are based on the collection of post-apocalyptic Horror/Thriller novels written by Dmitry Glukhovsky. The games are extremely loyal to the original source material. Both the games’ and the books’ setting are post-apocalyptic Russia. They take place following the events of a nuclear holocaust between Russia and various other countries. Creatures inhabit the surface, and humans inhabit the large tunnels of the Russian metro system.
Each underground metro station as its own culture, history, and politics. This makes the story seem ever expansive. However, the creatures from the surface have the largest story to tell. Unlike Sapkowski’s relationship with The Witcher game series, Glukhovsky is extremely involved in the game adaptations of Metro. He’s extremely excited that much more are experiencing the story he has to tell. Additionally, this is the perfect time to get into this series as the new Metro game, Metro Exodus, releases later this year.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Although not a direct adaptation, the Middle-earth series draws inspiration from J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium. This term refers to the writing that forms the background to The Lord of the Rings series. The Middle-earth series takes place between the events represented in The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings. It takes liberties to form the foundation of its story, but the entire universe is based around that of J.R.R. Tolkien. Additionally, it draws inspiration from the Peter Jackson films. However, when playing the games, I saw less of Jackson’s flair and more literature-like wonder. Its story follows the ranger Talion and uses a “Nemesis System” in order for the player to complete missions or get revenge on particular enemies. Both games are fun and enticing, especially for a Tolkien fan.
The Walking Dead (Telltale Games)
The Walking Dead Telltale series is an interactive adventure which takes place in the Walking Dead Universe first introduced by Robert Kirkland. The games create a new story based on new characters. Each character in the game fits a particular archetype-the college professor, the criminal, and a young girl named Clementine. Clementine is the focus of the story. The player follows her as she attempts to keep her innocence and child-like wonder in a detrimental zombie apocalypse. Kirkland’s largest concern with this adaptation was in its tone. Telltale ensure Kirkland that the tone of the game would remain consistent with its source material.
The Binding of Isaac
Created by Edmund McMillen of Super Meat Boy fame, The Binding of Isaac is an indie roguelike adventure. Oddly enough, the game takes inspiration from The Bible. Now, this has been done before but often to a horrendous degree (Super 3D Noah’s Ark). Many different items and power-ups in the game are taken directly from The Bible. But more interestingly, so is the entirety of the story. The biblical story of Abraham and Isaac is represented in the game’s narrative. In the game your mother is told by God she must kill you, and your name is Isaac. Not dissimilar to Abraham’s Godly obligation to kill his son, Isaac, in the old testament.
Many games are adapted for books. We often don’t see many books adapted from games, and achieving the same level of recognition. I say, bring them on. Almost every genre’s story can draw inspiration from works of literature. If Star Wars and Warhammer are able to convert to books successfully, then there is no reason why we don’t see more of the same with video games. I encourage varied and expansive experiences in games, and history’s back-catalog of books are more varied and expansive as any other medium’s.
What literature would you like to see become a game? Or better yet, what game would you like to see a book adaptation of? Lets us know in the comments!