Everyone knows that Hollywood would love video games to be the next big source of inspiration for blockbuster adaptations. In fact, everyone has known this for so long that video game movies have been hitting in (usually unsuccessful) waves for even longer and more concertedly than the currently-fashionable wave of comic book reworkings, with the 1990s seeing features based on Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter, Double Dragon, Mortal Kombat all hitting theaters to varying levels of success in an era where the superhero genre consisted of Batman and not much else. Further attempts have followed since, with everything from Tomb Raider to Dead or Alive getting a cinematic test-drive; but apart from the now five (soon to be six) film Resident Evil franchise, almost none of these have found significant box office success – and almost all have been savaged by film critics.
Many have taken this history as a sign that video games are simply not cut out for becoming movies. But in an era where The Lego Movie can not only top the box-office but receive stellar reviews from critics and everything from Emoji to Play-Doh to Fruit Ninja are becoming fodder for big-studio productions, can that really be true? And if not, who can break the losing streak? To many gamers, the answer is as simple as one word: Nintendo – the legendary game company that recently revealed its intention to break (back) into the movie business.
Part of the problem with the question of whether or not video games can become good movies is that the question itself is grounded in shaky logic: Gaming isn’t a genre, it’s a medium. While (for example) the jury is still out as to whether books like Finnegans Wake or Dune could ever be “properly” translated to the screen, no one would ever ask whether or not it was possible to make movies from books. And while the question was slightly more nuanced in the context of comic books, since American popular comics are largely dominated by a single genre (read: superheroes), gaming is significantly more diverse – although maybe not to the degree that it was previously.