Book-to-film adaptations can be hit or miss, but it seems like a rule that video-game-to-film adaptations are always bad. Good and bad in any artform are, of course, matters of taste, but there’s a persistent, nagging sentiment in popular media that, when filmmakers consider a video game adaptation, they take its success and built-in fan adoration for granted. Producers wield more power than actual talented filmmakers and writers, and the whole affair leans further into entertainment for entertainment’s sake, because the popular sentiment of video games is still driven by people who think Mario and Luigi saving Princess Peach from Bowser’s clutches is the standard in video game storytelling.
(Relevant note: The plot of the forthcoming Mario adaptation is that Mario and Peach are trying to save Luigi from Bowser this time.)
I consider myself a little weird as a fiction writer with some academic decoration, because I am a life-long gamer. We’re not as weird as you’d think, it turns out, but in many literary circles, video games are still considered anathema to good storytelling. I think, considering some of the truly great writing and storytelling I’ve experienced through video games in my life, that’s tragic. The literary world is warming up to TV and films as legitimate mediums for good writing, but video games are still viewed as a medium for children despite the average age of a gamer being 33, and their artistic validity beyond their use of art as resources is still questioned.
(Sure, this is an old post, and Ebert is a bit of a punching bag on the subject, but it’s illustrative of the argument, which I’d argue is flawed because the distinctions he made aren’t independently exclusive, but that’s not what this post is about.)
This year, HBO released a series adapting a video game called The Last of Us, which was developed by video game studio Naughty Dog. I played that game in 2013, and it not only redefined for me what good storytelling is in video games, but it also demonstrated a new potential for immersive storytelling experiences that only video games can provide: in this way, I felt The Last of Us offered new justification not only for the validity of video games as art but that we should consider video games a new artform in their own right.
I can’t overstate the profound effect this game had on me as a storyteller, and it isn’t a game that made me want to make games. It’s a game that made me want to tell better stories, and I think that’s important: the influence The Last of Us had on me transcends the medium.
I can’t think of a better definition for art.
Continue reading “What It Means that HBO’s The Last of Us Is Good”