Having just played Quantum Break, and having actually quite enjoyed Remedy’s mixed-media experiment, I gotz to thinking about how that exact element might just add a little som’thin-som’thin to other games I’ve played. Obviously Remedy built the Quantum Break experience knowing it would be a factor, so they planned for it (using actors, not voice-over actors, for example), and they had the whole ‘consequences playing out in the TV episodes’ thing going on, but what if we could use the Quantum Break Time Machine – not to fix heinous injustices or make the whole world a better place (bor-ing!) – but to improve our favourite games by arriving from the future and showing their developers some mixed media futuristic magic. I mean, that’d be awesome, right!?
So, anyways, what games would benefit from some Live Action shizzle? Assuming we could retrospectively make the same plans as Remedy did (or, conversely, imagine that, say, Nolan North or Troy Baker could also look like anybody as convincingly as they can sound like anybody), which games would be made all the more awesomer-ish by having some Live Action woven into the fabric of their existence. Allowing for unlimited budgets, spectacular special effects and – where necessary – awesome CGI, which Games could be taken to the next level with a bit of Real Life exposition and dramatic flair!?
When drawing up my list, some games ruled themselves out of consideration because there are already big budget ‘Live Action’ films/series set in that Universe (Star Wars, Batman, LoTR, Resident Evil, Alien, Tomb Raider, for example), and realistically, it wouldn’t really be feasible for truly massive, open-world RPGs, but basically everything else was on the table. Here’s what I came up with….
Seriously, imagine wrapping up an Act of an Uncharted Game, and then getting to see the consequences of the gameplay play out in front of you in a Live Action episode. To start with, the locations the games feature would be truly, truly spectacular – and then to have a real-life Sully and Drake riffing off of each other surrounded by such stunning scenery…well, that would be a TV show I’d pay good cash-money to see. What’s more, The Uncharted games could quite easily ‘borrow’ some of the ‘from the villain’s point of view’ device that QB uses, and you’d immediately add a massively interesting dimension right there, I think (and also avoid some of the game’s ‘bad guys just popping up at key moments from out of nowhere’ issues).
Sure, the games already have some pretty epic (and rather well done) cutscenes – but I think live action episodes would add some real depth to the story these provide. There’s the chemistry between Nathan and Elena (and the tension when Chloe’s involved), the scenery chomping (British) villains, not to mention some pretty cool supernatural elements that could all create fantastic television.
If it was done well, it could be the cross between Indiana Jones and Game of Thrones that we’ve all been waiting for!
There’s a possibility that this will become a film at some point in the near future, but it’s not yet, so it’s fair game for now. Which is great, because I think both the Metro Games (2033 and Last Light) would make for some excellent live action additions. The game’s dark and foreboding subterranean setting would create plenty of tension, and it’d be an instantly absorbing (and terrifying) world. Add in some decent CGI monsters lurking in the shadows, and you’d have an excellent post-apocalyptic foundation on which to place your narrative.
And on the subject of that narrative, I think the Metro games particularly lend themselves to Live Action segments precisely because there’s a great story at the heart of the game, as you’d perhaps expect from a game based on a book. There’s an almost infinite set of possibilities when it comes to expanding upon it too, from the various characters you come across in the game, to the factions that be all up in your face when you’re making your perilous journey. The Metro games also employ a similar ‘slight variation in events depending on your actions’ element to Quantum Break, which would make it a natural choice for a QB-style experiment.
I can’t think of any TV shows set underground, but if one exists, think of that with a bit of Wayward Pines thrown in, and you’ll get the general idea.
Red Dead Redemption
I spent a big chunk of my childhood watching westerns at my Grandparents’ house, and there’s just something immeasurably compelling about their setting. Red Dead Redemption was a huge, beautiful world, with some spectacular locations, so on that basis alone, it’d make gorgeous television. Throw in cowboys, the colourful cast of characters, and some memorable gunfights and you’ve got an instant classic, right!?
In terms of the story, you’ve got a lot to work with too, and there’s plenty of scope to expand upon – from villains, to John Marston’s past – plus some Zombie DLC if you want to go The Walking Dead route. I mean, just imagine the scene: A Saloon complete with all manner of rogues and retrobates, you walk in, the room goes silent…. Cut to epic television episode featuring shoot-outs, dust-churning chases on horseback, some quiet reflection by the campfire, and all set against the backdrop of a Wild West caught up in the inescapable tide of modernity.
It’d be like Deadwood, ‘cept with even more style and panache. And with Red Dead Redemption 2 on the way, who knows….??
Now, this might come as a surprise to you, but as something of a geek, I’m quite the fan of Sci Fi. I know, right; shocker! Anyways, given the popularity of Sci Fi shows, it would seem like a no-brainer for a Sci Fi game to mix the two mediums. Whilst there are a few games that could do this quite successfully, I think the Mass Effect series is one of the most obvious contenders. Mass Effect games are epic in scope, feature an outstanding array of interesting and memorable characters, as well as an intricately designed ‘cascading consequences’/morality system.
In short, it took all the best elements of speculative Science Fiction and added playability, so really, it’d work equally well if the playabilityness was added to with, erm, non-playabilityness. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see some of the conversations play out in the flesh, see some onscreen chemistry as the ‘romancing’ moves to Live Action, and honestly, wouldn’t it contain some of the most jaw-dropping set-pieces ever? Given the game’s fairly advanced approach to branching stories and whatnot (remember we’re working with unlimited budgets here) it could be an outstanding package of subtle variations and branching narrative arcs. Like a Choose Your Own Adventure TV series, and one that could easily replace Battlestar Galactica as my go-to Space Jam.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
One of the things that surprised me most about Wolfenstein: The New Order was the quality and strength of the core narrative – and for a game with a shitload of shooting people in the face, there really was a commendable degree of emotional depth to it. That – and the fact that I’m a sucker for alternate history whatsits – makes it a decent candidate for some Real-life episodic content, in my humble opinion.
A future where the Nazis hadn’t lost the war, where everything was a mass of oppressive superconcrete, and where there were some pretty menacing mechanised bad guys stomping around would undoubtedly make for some interesting TV. Once again, there’s plenty of potential material to work with too – from the interesting cast of characters, through to some of the ongoing stories contained within the collectables, and there’s also the doomed romance between BJ and Anya that’d likely have people weeping like small children as their chance of happiness slowly, inevitably slides away. Plus, bonus Jimi Hendrix trippy dude!
It would have to be done well – not least because there have been numerous ‘Nazis at the centre of the Earth’ type films that were just shockingly, shockingly bad – but if it was, and if it matched the quality of the game, it really could be a spectacular experience.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Whilst most of the more recent GTA games could be contenders here, I personally think San Andreas is the game which most lends itself to Live Action shenanigans. Despite featuring the series’ trademark irony and tongue-in-cheek elements, San Andreas is arguably a more dramatic, realistic story – with more believable and fleshed out characters. Both it’s main storyline and the motivations of protagonist CJ are compelling, nuanced, complicated and there’s a quintessential ‘anti-hero’ quality to his journey. Given the twists and turns in the narrative, and the various elements pulling the game (and our hero) in different directions, I think some Episodic TV exposition and expansion would prove extremely interesting and ultimately very rewarding.
Given the setting and themes of GTA: San Andreas, a well-made Live Action component could be a compelling blend of The Wire, The Shield and Boyz N the Hood, and in all honesty, who wouldn’t want to watch that!
The Order: 1886
No seriously….hear me out. Whilst a game can only be made awesomer if it was awesome to begin with, let’s be generous and allow for just ‘massively improved’ for my last entry (for today, at least). Sure, I’ve already gone on record as saying The Order was more of an interactive movie than a game but, in a way, that’s part of the reason it could be improved by actual, real-life cinematics. See, by removing some of the extended cutscenes, and putting the exposition in actual TV episodes, you could free up more time for, like, gameplay and such.
And really, two of the things that I liked about The Order were its setting and its premise, and one of my biggest complaints was that they weren’t explored as much as I wanted them to be. Here’s where your Live Action shit would potentially prove to be hugely compelling. Throw into that mix a creepy, atmospheric London, some mysterious secret societies and some rather cool Steampunkery, and you might well have a bona fide hit on your hands.
In a way, it’d be like blending Sanctuary, Penny Dreadful and Da Vinci’s Demons which, if nothing else, would be intriguing and/or batshit crazy.
And there we have it; my own alternative history of Video Game/Live Action hybrids. Of course, there are thousands of video games, and many that could feature here, but this is just a small sample based upon what came to (my rapidly aging) mind. If there are any you think would work as well as, or better than, those I’ve included, feel free to add them in the comments. Likewise, if you disagree with any I’ve chosen – and would really rather I kept my grubby, tinkering hands off games that work well enough as just games, thankyouverymuch – you can do that too. But nicely though, eh!?
April 20, 2016 at 7:48 pm
Red dead, Uncharted and GTA?! Count me in! I actually thought that under another developer such as NaughtyDog The Order could’ve been a game of the year candidate. Shame the compelling setting and ideas were wasted.
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April 20, 2016 at 8:55 pm
Yeah, I thought The Order had some decent ideas, and it sure looked purty, but it all just felt more like a playable demo than an actual, proper game. None of the good stuff was ever really expanded or built upon, and the story just seemed rushed through and badly executed. And don’t even get me fucking started on the QTEs….
I certainly think it could have benefited from some of (eg) NaughtyDog’s narrative chops – and like you say, it was a game that could’a been a real contender had it not decided to waste its potential. It’s kind of like the gaming version of that kid at school who was really good at football, but just sacked it all off in favour of hanging out behind the bike sheds with a pack of Lambert & Butler and a can of Tennents, I guess!?
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