Playing with Movies: Film-to-Game Adaptation Form and Contexts

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Licensing and franchise exploitation has remained a major industrial factor throughout the history of commercial videogames. Film tie-ins represent a significant aspect of thevideogame industry (Blanchet, 2010; Brookey, 2010; Hall, 2011) due to the economic opportunities of cross-media promotion, branding, and synergy (Aarseth, 2006; Long,2009; Johnson, 2013). A significant aspect of the identity of movie-licensed games is their historical association with intrinsic poor-quality (Montfort & Bogost, 2009;Russell, 2012), setting a pattern of disreputability (Elkington, 2009).Film-to-game adaptation is a complicated and problematic process that cannot be understood by textual analysis alone. This thesis argues that the phenomenon can be more fully understood by creating a framework which uses a combination of textual,contextual and paratextual approaches. It proposes a series of adaptation models that describe the practice of film-to-game adaptation, drawing upon adaptation theory, film and game aesthetics studies, and transmedia storytelling scholarship (Jenkins, 2009;Wolf, 2012b). It investigates the similarities and differences between ludic and cinematic forms, and analyses the relationship between concepts of adaptation and transmediality. Whilst a majority of adaptation studies consider novel-to-film adaptation, this thesis deals with strategies of adapting a non-interactive work into an interactive one, known as interactivation. Whilst the thesis draws upon existing adaptation scholarship, its value is in the application within the realm of game studies.This thesis deals with adaptation issues within the sphere of contemporary entertainment media. The value of this research is in its incorporation of multiple perspectives within a wider system that sheds light on cultural, industrial, and textual issues, further providing insight into the practice of film-to-game adaptation. The thesis places film-to-game adaptation within its historical context, charting the phenomena from the earliest period of the commercial videogame industry to recent trends in large-scale entertainment to create multi-film interconnecting and amalgamated entertainment franchises (Balio, 2013; Elberse, 2013). Complex industrial and textual questions are negotiated in relation to film-to-game adaptations by analysing a group of case study games in terms of three frameworks: the contextual framework, which includes developer accounts, critical reception, and player reaction; the paratextual framework, which includes adaptation system and transmedia state; and the textual framework, which foregrounds issues of narrative form and seriality, world building,and interactivation. It is these combined frameworks that provide valuable insight into this practice.This approach to film-to-game adaptation establishes three main models that demonstrate the ways in which games provide the possibilities of reflecting, intersecting,and extending the source film or film property. Case study games exemplify each model: GoldenEye 007 (Nintendo, 1997) and LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy(LucasArts, 2006) illustrate the Reflection Model; Blade Runner (Virgin, 1997)demonstrates the Intersection Model; and The Thing (Vivendi Universal, 2002), The Warriors (Rockstar, 2005), and Alien: Isolation (Sega, 2014) enunciate the Extension Model. This study significantly contributes to the existing scholarship as it produces outcomes with the potential to expand intellectual endeavour in adaptation and transmedia studies,to provide a guideline for industry with regard to convergent media, and to give shape to contemporary creative practice. This study demonstrates meaningful differences between media types and provides an articulation of issues of transmedia convergence.
Date of Award13 Oct 2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJeffrey Brand (Supervisor) & Sven Brodmerkel (Supervisor)

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