Proof is in the text.
Recently, Jessica Wynn, Jess Reed, and I pieced together a top ten list that consisted of great video game adaptations of published books or short stories. Some of my favorite video game narratives, like Parasite Eve, are based around some really interesting stories (in the case of Eve, it’s Squaresoft’s interpretation of a sequel for the Japanese novel of the same name). Huge titles that most gamers didn’t know were novels first litter the gaming industry, such as The Witcher and Assassin’s Creed. Other games, like Bioshock, find themselves deeply inspired by the philosophy or ideology of a text; in all of these cases, they’ve made for memorable, if not great, gaming experiences.
In the case of video game adaptations of novels, the industry has the upper hand over film. For many, the book will always be the superior source when comparing film to novel—mostly due to a film’s short run time. Video games, on the contrary, have as many hours as the developer (or financiers) sees fit. For a game like American McGee’s Alice, 12 hours is more than enough (the book itself takes far less to read), which allows the player to truly immerse him/herself within the narrative. I thought that we could have something legitimately special here; the video game industry has untapped potential at its disposal.
After publishing our top ten games based on novels, I’ve been pondering which books and genres would make tremendous games. Below, you’ll find my suggestions for three fantasy novels that would make great games.
3 – The Book of the New Sun (Series), Gene Wolfe
Gene Wolfe is, without question, my favorite author. I would be remiss in neglecting to add him to this list. With a writing style that surpasses nearly any other author, Gene Wolfe reads like scholars of yore. The Book of the New Sun, a four novella series, features the brilliant Severian, a member of the Torturer’s Guild blessed (or cursed) with idyllic memory. He falls in love with a woman he is to torture, and from there, his story explodes.
Rife with superb storytelling, large war set pieces, and a narrator you just can’t trust, The Book of the New Sun could translate into a Shadows of Mordor-esque game mixed with some Final Fantasy XV elements. Personally, I believe the storytelling abilities of Naughty Dog or even (don’t hurt me) Square-Enix would fit this genius tale with immaculate precision. Being the most obscure title on this list, I named it first; but this series also holds, in my opinion, the greatest potential.
2 – The Lies of Locke Lamora (Book), Scott Lynch
Perhaps one of the best crafted tales I’ve read in quite some time, Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora spins an intricate web of the lives of Locke Lamora and his thieving friends (and their master Chains). Essentially, the novel expertly shifts between the past and present, chronicling Locke’s childhood and training to his present heist and game of cat-and-mouse with a powerful and psychotic mage.
This book (and the overarching series) has such phenomenal potential as games; with the unique approach to storytelling, the game could focus on an Assassin’s Creed stylized play mixed with the reminisces of a Naughty Dog game. If players were allowed to strategize each segment of the game—not unlike the newer Assassin’s Creeds routes of attacks—I could see large amount of unique playthroughs. And with some of the best and most realistic dialogue I’ve had the chance to read, I am hard pressed to find any resounding negatives for a game adaptation.
1 – The Corean Chronicles (Series), L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
I knew very little about L.E. Modesitt, Jr. or his works when I first picked up Legacies, the first novel of The Corean Chronicles series. Set in a fantasy/futuristic World War I-ish setting filled with mythical and magical creatures, Legacies and The Corean Chronciles span a good half dozen novels. The story follows a young man named Alucius, who has strong Talent, a form of magical prowess. When a war with a foreign invincible tyrant throws Alucius into a slave encampment, he utilizes his Talent to break free and, eventually, joins up with his home forces to push back the invasion.
Since the series is so lengthy, the games would have the ability to also spawn at least a trilogy, which allows developers to build upon a solid gameplay. There’s much to love about Modesitt’s exploration of magic and myth, and with the World War I fantasy setting (the soldiers use rifles, ride horses, and live a pretty farmy life), an X-Com type strategy RPG would be pretty awesome. As Alucius continues to fight in the stories, he is promoted throughout the ranks of his military and begins to command more soldiers.
Since there aren’t a lot of named in the book, the character creation aspects of X-Com could also carry over. I can’t help but grow excited when considering the prospect of a game version of The Corean Chronicles because I do think it would translate into one hell of a game.
I feel pretty good about the first three suggestions in what is bound to become a populated series of features. For now, consider the books—should you read—that you’d love to take part in, whether it be living as the characters, experiencing their world, or visualizing the narrative. With such an expansive and nearly endless sea of resources, the video game industry could have a metaphorical oil spring.