Published on March 14th, 2011 | by Kole Ross, Editor
TV on the Xbox?: 3 TV Shows That Should Be Games
Our medium has changed a great deal in its short history, and a game’s ability to tell a visual story is greater than ever. In the past, the source material for licensed games had to be simple, so that the breadth of it could be expressed through the technology and game mechanics available at the time. The Independence Day game practically designed itself– gamers had been fighting off alien hordes since day one.
Low-res textures, jaggy polygons, and text boxes couldn’t do justice to great films. But now we have the technology to do more.
I thought about telling you which movies or books should be games, but let’s make this interesting and talk about television.
Serialized drama makes plenty of sense for games, with episodes and missions being roughly analogous structures. Great TV shows need large casts of interesting characters, just like good games. Within the arc of a series, we go to interesting places and untangle many motivations, and I think games are ready to take this challenge.
I’ve come up with a very short list of great TV shows that would make great games. The list is not comprehensive, and is only an expression of my opinion. I’ll first tell you why the show would make a good game, and how it would play.
Mass Effect 2 has already pinched Firefly‘s steez… Bioware even snagged one of their actors. Still, the crew of Serenity would make a great party in an action RPG similar to Bioware’s space opera.
Firefly is a western set in space, with ambiguous heroes, a fleshed out ‘verse, and clever writing, and playing a game based on the series would be a joy. The show is infamous for being cancelled after only one season, and the movie Serenity didn’t answer all of our questions. A game would allow fans to see more of the outer planets, and have a hand in re-telling the events of the series.
How would it work? Serenity would be the home base, and you would play as captain Malcolm Reynolds, taking on smuggling jobs to keep your crew fed while working to uncover why the Alliance is so interested in psychics like River Tam.
Mal’s crew already falls into established archetypes that make up an RPG party… while also subverting them. Jayne is the tank, Simon the healer, River the magic user, Kaylee the engineer … I could keep going like that, but you catch my meaning. It wouldn’t be difficult to make players care about these characters.
Sadly, Firefly seems hopelessly confined to its grave. Joss Whedon, the mastermind behind the series, is committed to other projects like The Avengers, while the remaining cast is scattered to the winds. A fan can dream, though.
It could be argued that the worst thing about Heavy Rain was its story. As a piece of technology, the game excelled at being an experience engine, but those experiences and emotions didn’t add up to a very satisfying narrative. What if we took the best show currently on television, and re-imagined it through that tech?
Breaking Bad is about a desperate chemistry teacher named Walter White who becomes crystal meth kingpin to support his family after being diagnosed with lung cancer. He works with his former student, Jesse Pinkman, and struggles to survive run-ins with the Mexican Cartel and to keep his operation hidden from his DEA agent brother-in-law Hank.
Over the course of the series, we see motivations shift as characters work at cross purposes. This tension is similar to what we’ve already seen in Quantic Dream’s previous game, Indigo Prophecy, where players pit a murderer against the detectives who are trying to solve the case.
The player would assume the roles of Walt, Jesse, Hank, and slimy attorney Saul Goodman () as they commit their crimes and attempt to keep the consequences at bay. You’d need to think quickly and lie with style, using a Heavy Rain-esque investigation and dialogue system to navigate the perils of the Albuquerque drug trade. You could even throw in some Phoenix Wright legal monkeyshines in Saul’s scenarios.
AMC has already made their proof-of-concept with the Flash game “The Interrogation.” The world of Breaking Bad is a cartoonish place of ridiculous violence and twisted morals, which would make it the perfect setting for a great adventure game.
2010 was the year of the David Lynch knockoff. Alan Wake and Deadly Premonition showed that people are still interested in quirky horror set in the Pacific northwest. Let’s show them where it all started with a Twin Peaks mystery game, in the vein of L.A. Noire.
Twin Peaks is a television classic, and a strange one at that. The show’s defining mystery was the murder of Laura Palmer, and Special Agent Dale Cooper was the only man eccentric enough to solve the case. The town was inhabited by goofy, yet interesting characters who concealed dark secrets about the town’s history with crime, drugs and evil demons in the woods.
There’s enough tension, humor and supernatural intrigue in Twin Peaks to make a fine game … If only so many people didn’t already know the ending.
Forgetting that the series is 20 years old, it would be great to see the tech behind L.A. Noire used to allow us to fill Agent Cooper’s shoes. The player would work with the local police to investigate the crime scenes and question the locals. Maybe throw in a little bit of Silent Hill for when reality starts to break down, and the dream logic of the Black Lodge invades the proceedings.
Of all of the shows I’ve mentioned here, Twin Peaks is the least likely to make an appearance. The series and its lore are dead and buried, and only a small group of cult fanatics keep it alive. Still, it’s comforting to see so many games taking influence from Lynch’s finest work.
That concludes my humble list. Hopefully the content-to-fan-wank ratio was bearable.
There’s plenty of great material on television, and though my proposals are hypothetical, it’s nice to know that video games are finally at a point where they can give TV a run for its money.
Do you have a favorite show that you’d like to see made into a game? Share your thoughts in the comments.