It’s no surprise that I’m eager to see book adaptations break the mold when it comes to the medium in which they are told (you can read my discussion on Animation, here). So when I read adult SFF author Alix E. Harrow’s Tweet wondering why more books aren’t being adapted into video games, there was a lot I had to say on the subject which led me to create today’s post.
In the years before I found my love for reading, video games were my go-to hobby. Similar to my TBR though, there’s many games I’ve neglected to return to over the past few years, I’m always keeping updated on new or interesting titles that catch my attention. It’s my firm belief that mediums such as animation and video games are very much sidelined when it comes to creating adaptations based on written source material. They are an innovative form of storytelling that can be done in an endless number of formats, yet is often left out of the adaptation conversation. Now I’m very aware of the budget (and technology) required to create projects of this scale…however, I find that I’m always left wondering the “what ifs” and the potential to create a more interactive, immersive experience through the video game format.
One that many are aware of such as The Witcher, which is now a hit Netflix series, was actually first adapted into a successful video game franchise, starting in 2007 as an action RPG. Even Sir Terry Pratchett’s expansive Discworld Series was adapted into a point-and-click adventure game in the 90’s.
Book adaptations in a way are occupying a unique space right now where they are going direct to consumers, for example through Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other streaming services [with Shadow And Bone, Always And Forever, Lara Jean (To All The Boys 3) slated to arrive early this year]. Now consider mobile games you can play directly on your phone, software like Steam to download games instantly, etc.
The biggest space where I can see already published books being developed into video games is most definitely in the SFF, science fiction and fantasy genres. With a variety of publishers from Tor to Harper, Orbit, etc., there’s lots of potential to bring epic sci-fi/fantasy series, novellas, you name it to the unique market of gaming too.
The reason video games carry such a particular and notable weight in terms of adaptations is the immersive quality to them. When you enter the world of a video game, you become the main character (or characters) in a way you can’t do when watching the finished product of a television series or film. Sure you experience both in very distinct ways, but video games offer the exclusive opportunity for you to experience the world, connect with the cast, and carry on the story at your own pace as the MC yourself.
Similar for book-to-screen adaptations, video games can embed the story elements of our favorite books (especially fantasy or science fiction) through a plethora of ways, such as the expansive world or setting, character design, outfits, the environmental storytelling, architecture, npc dialogue, even the soundtrack.
Video games at their core are comprised of challenges or quests, engaging mechanics, and a fundamental goal for it’s story. The reason that books can make such an impact in this already wide-ranging market with genres, animation, and narratives of all kinds is that they carry all the these key ingredients that can carry over into a fun, dynamic video game space.
However, aside from storytelling another vital piece of the video game recipe is the gameplay (or combat) itself. From puzzle games, to open-world settings, RPG’s, strategy, visual novels, VR, action-adventure, and so on…the narrative within books themselves can allow for an endless of possibility of gameplay mechanics in order to tell the story.
The story and game design (or mechanics) in my opinion, work best when they are interconnected and benefit or even build each other to tell plot in the best way possible. The activity of reading a book and playing a video game, require very different muscles. For one, in video games it’s all about interaction, strategy, in order to actively progress through. However, that’s exactly why they would make such a great medium for adapting books, for those who are familiar with the story, now you become a part of it. Speaking to the other characters, voyaging across the setting, or something as simple as interacting with environment.
There’s also infinite possibilities when choosing core elements of the book’s plot, character, dialogue and world to create specific tasks, goals, or quests, even cutscenes that dictate how the in-world setting and story of a video game would operate. Thus, this creates an incredibly narrative-driven experience.
Now for the rest of the post I’m going to list a few books that I think would make great video games and delve into what I think the best gameplay/mechanic and narrative that would fit best with a particular book! Now there’s tons of books I’ve read that would make amazing video games, but these are just some I think I could explain with the most clarity…however, of course PLEASE recommend your own and share your dream book-to-game adaptations with me in the comments as well!
Love Sugar Magic: A Dash Of Trouble by Anna Meriano: Because I’m currently reading the sequel as I draft this post, there was a spark of an idea I just couldn’t let go of!
This game I can perfectly picture (with cover artist, Mirelle Ortega’s beautiful artwork) as a very cute point-and-click, narrative game where the player can create delicious and magical treats from the Amor y Azúcar Panadería as the main character Leo.
Not only is the storytelling of this series incredibly wholesome, but Meriano develops a unique magic system surrounded by baking and brujeria skills of the Logroño family.
The backgrounds of the bakery, even the specific baking ingredients, and magical items the Logroño family uses would all be at the center of this quiet contemporary fantasy game.
Scavenge The Stars by Tara Sim: From the moment I stepped into the lavish, tropical, rich and detailed setting of Moray, a thought that stuck with me throughout the entirety of the novel was…”WOW, this needs to be an video game tbh.” This Monte Cristo retelling is filled with revenge, corruption, but at its heart a tale of legacy and identity that would be perfectly executed as action role-playing game.
I can clearly picture this novel as an adventure RPG filled with quests, treasures, sea faring, intrigue, and above all an open world where you can be both Cayo and Amaya as they uncover more secrets about the dual-sided city of Moray.
The setting and atmosphere that Sim weaves throughout the novel would perfectly transition to a format for players to explore the world themselves as they journey either Cayo or Amaya’s stories.
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi: This idea did not even cross my mind until I saw fellow booktwt friends mention that TGW would make an amazing puzzle game, and I agree!
Set in Paris 1889 and on the verge of the Exposition Universelle, Chokshi’s magic system and adorable crew of misfits would be perfect as a visual novel melded with the strategy of a puzzle game to tell the story of the crew on a mission to hunt down an ancient artifact.
What would be at the core of this fictional game, in my opinion, would be the atmospheric soundtrack, detailed characters/text boxes and backgrounds making for fun interactive puzzles across Paris, even the focus on narrative to uncover the secrets, but also delve into the various themes Chokshi centers into her novel.
Skip by Molly Mendoza: One of my favorite graphic novels of 2019, this graphic novel that blew me away with its beautiful storytelling and surrealist, colorful artwork (Seriously if you haven’t read this graphic novel please read my REVIEW if you need more convincing).
This is set in a post-apocalyptic world where protagonists Bloom and Gloopy are from different dimensions and become best friends, while also trying to find their way back home. When I think of this as a video game, I picture it with a Journey-esque quality (if you know what game I’m talking about) where there’s no health bar/status and is just about exploring the open world setting and interacting with the world or characters.
Basically no overly serious quests, just traveling in a marvelously illustrated world and immersing yourself in the aesthetics of it all. I also picture the cutscenes done in the style of Mendoza’s artwork from the graphic novel.
Perhaps for a future post I can share more of these ideas for book-to-game, but to conclude I had a lot of fun writing + crafting this post, and sure hope you enjoyed reading it. Perhaps one day studios will experiment more in animation and video game adaptations when it comes to books!
Do you have an dream books-to-videogame adaptations? What kind of game format do you imagine and thoughts on the ones I mentioned above? 📚🎮💖