Awaiting Adaptation

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?


  1. That picture from Oz made me have to look up who was in that show. I know all those actors from other stuff and even more when I looked up the full list. However chewed off genetalia may put that show right back off my radar. I'm told I would enjoy Game of Thrones which I may check out.

    Hmmm... not too big on licensed games. I'd probably be interested in either a Fringe or Veronica Mars game which would be in the adventure genre somewhere I'd think. But I imagine they'd end up being pretty terrible games (and they aren't popular enough to warrant a game anyway). I have the LOST game and man is it bad. Never finished it because one part seemed quite broken and shelved it. Not dying to go back to it.

  2. A bunch of brutal factions vying for a kingship. During the long awaited return of dragons. Anchored on the crests of Northmen. With a prophesied character appearing to deal with the dragons and restore order. Winterhold. Winterfell. The Reach. The Reach.

    I'm sure we'll get many games from The Song of Ice and Fire, but I seriously doubt we'll ever see one that captures the feel of the story as accurately as the blatant George R.R. Martin tribute we call Skyrim.

    There is at least one great prison game - Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay!

    I get more and more annoyed at the lack of good educational dinosaur games. I wish they'd start a video game series based on Dinosaur Planet or something. I want to run around the prehistoric wilderness building shelters and trying to survive while being immersed in complex ecosystems. We have the virtual ecosystems, too, they just need to be ported into the gaming universe where you can roll around in the data.

  3. @ Trip - Yes, lots of familiar faces in OZ. Each time i get into a new US drama, I spend the first couple of episodes seeing how many actors I can spot from OZ! There is always at least one. The Wire was like a mini OZ reunion.

    Licensed games don't have the best of track records. Sopranos is my all time favourite TV show, but the video game "Road to Respect" was appalling. Some shows just don't lend themselves to video games, and the Sopranos is definitely one of them.

    @ Thirdrail - Really looking forward to getting stuck into the books and seeing if I can remember how to read.

    You have further convinced me to buy Skyrim. I wonder if I can make Sean Bean in the character creation?

    How about something along the lines of Afrika (safari photography sim) only with dinosaurs? Could be quite interesting. Failing that, you could always just play Primal Rage :)

  4. first off, let me apologize for my lack of posts. once again, i have been reading and not posting. my bad.

    it's already been tried and was a huge disappointment but i would love to see a good game based on the bourne movies.

  5. Hey, no problem! Always good to hear from you.

    Never tried the Bourne games, but the source material would certainly seem to lend itself to a video game.

  6. finally found some free time to clean up my life and get around to the finer things, i'm not only sorry i missed out on so many of your blogs but feel pretty bad for letting stuff get so far away from me. i love reading your blog, your a great writer but for the topic at hand.
    i've been meaning to check out Game of Thrones but i do like to make a point of reading the books before the show (or movie in some cases) hopefully one day i will get around to it as all i've heard are great things and i love me some sean bean.
    i take it you have not played Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, i never thought i would like that game because i never really enjoyed the character Riddick or FPS games but it was a surprise hit with me. and i think you just made a great game, lol. from what you talked about i'd love to play that prison game. great blog dude.

  7. Hey. No problem, there are more important things in life than reading my blog! Probably :)

    The TV is brilliant, as I'm sure the books are too. Definitely required viewing.

    I've never been a fan of the Riddick films, but you are the second person who has recommended the Butcher Bay game. Might have to give it a look.

    Cheers for stopping by.

  8. I really dug The Game of Thrones series as well. I'd almost rather not see any games for it, as I feel they would all be awful... I still don't think games lend themselves to drama very well.

  9. Games do struggle with drama, but the fantasy elements and dark story of Game of Thrones would perhaps lend themselves to a Dragon Age Origins like WRPG. Odds are probably against it though


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