These last six weeks, I have been enthralled by HBO's Game of Thrones. A TV adaptation of the first book in George R. R. Martin's Fire & Ice fantasy series, it is essential viewing for anyone who likes their drama bleak, bloody and full of compelling characters. I have been watching weekly repeats of the first series and seem to be nearing the end of what has quickly become my favourite show on TV.
The production values are extremely high, and in its scope and ambition it reminds me of the short-lived, but equally brilliant Rome. Sean Bean is perfectly cast as the unwilling protagonist Lord Stark, and there are some great turns in the supporting roles. The visceral nature of the show - you rarely go more than ten minutes without spying guts or muff - is never to the detriment of the layered narrative that succeeds in being in three, or sometimes more, places at once. I can't wait for the second series in 2012, and yesterday I took advantage of Amazon's Black Friday sale to buy the full set of books.
Game of Thrones is just begging for a video game adaptation, which I understand is on its way in the form of a strategy RPG, due next year. Details are scant and the past history of developer Cyanide (Pro Cycling Manager and Blood Bowl) provides few clues as to what to expect, but I feel that Game of Thrones certainly lends itself to a sprawling RPG, along the lines of Bioware's Dragon Age Origins. Not to take away from Cyanide, but I'd love to have seen Bioware get their hands on the licence and make something as bloody, epic and layered as their finest past efforts.
Game of Thrones is not the only HBO series which would lend itself to a video game adaptation. I have always wondered why there are so few, if any, games set in prison. The second act of Yakuza 4 opens with Saejima, the burliest of the four protagonists, behind bars and surrounded by ruthless criminals and equally immoral guards. Although it lasts for no more than an hour, it was perhaps my favourite section of the whole game as it quietly builds into an orgy of violence and a (partly) successful escape bid. If Yakuza can do it, then why can't we have OZ on our consoles?
OZ (1997-2003) was a drama set in the maximum security Oswald State Correctional Facility. It pulled no punches, with a gritty, though admittedly over-exaggerated depiction of a deeply troubled prison population. No topics were out of bounds, as it covered everything from racism to sexuality, and featured characters both sympathetic and despicable. Beyond the brutal violence, which ranged from chewed-off cocks to crucified priests, were more subtle themes of love, regret and faith that kept you invested throughout six series of inmates.
I appreciate that a space as confined as a maximum security prison may be viewed as too restrictive for a video game, but I would counter that, if a developer is willing to think outside of the box, there is plenty of substance to support a lengthy prison-based game. As seen in Oz, each new character could be introduced with a brief flashback to their life before they were incarcerated and a glimpse of the crimes they committed. This could be viewed passively, or perhaps you could take the role of the criminal in the moments that led to their current predicament. Even more interesting would be placing the gamer in the shoes of the victim, forced to experience first-hand the terror that these men wrought. Fantasies of freedom could also be played out in dream sequences, so as to further escape the confines of the prison complex.
Back behind bars, any such game would certainly benefit from being open-ended, allowing you to choose your own path through character creation, actions and affiliations. Do you aim to become a loner, or buddy up with one of the many factions that rule their own little corners of the prison? This would of course be subject to limitations, as I doubt many publishers would be comfortable giving you the opportunity to brand yourself with a swastika and join the brotherhood.
You would ingratiate yourself with one faction or another by completing tasks, from drug dealing to murder, which you can approach in any way you see fit. Do you do your nasty deeds out in the open or enlist the help of a bent correctional officer and act a little more stealthily? All of these small tasks would build towards an explosive final act, where tensions boil over and the prisoners riot and wrestle control from their gaolers. Your previous actions would dictate whether you have the ear of the ringleaders and if you will survive your now untethered enemies long enough to see the riot police take back the prison.
Sure there are elements that would need to be left out of an OZ inspired game – motion-controlled shower room buggery would be one – but I feel there’s a lot of potential there for the right developer to make a great, prison video game, just as Game of Thrones is a gaming epic waiting to happen.
Are there any TV shows, books, movies, comics etc. that you feel are a due a video game adaptation?