Why Movie Narratives Don’t Work In Video Games, According To Peter Jackson

There’s been ongoing and long-running debates about why movie-games don’t work and vice versa on why game-movies don’t work. Of all people, director Peter Jackson decided to chime in and explain why the movie-games don’t work, or specifically why movie narratives don’t work in video games.

During a press event for the upcoming release of Mortal Engines, Polygon managed to get in a word with the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, asking him about his gaming habits, some of his favorite games and movie-games. Regarding the latter topic, Jackson explained the difficulty of getting games made based on movies, and one of the prime challenges of turning a movie script into a video game, saying:

This is very true given that video games are interactive, and trying to tell a linear story in a video game means that it has to undermine a lot of the agency of the gamer. This also creates a narrative dissonance sometimes between what the gamer is doing and what the plot is trying to unfold. We see this many times in Assassin’s Creed games where you take out like 100 guys, and then in a cinematic sequence, the main character gets knocked out by just one guy, leaving players scratching their heads how the main character got so weak.

But Jackson also praised video games for elevating the quality of their content with additional actors and the improved performance capture process that has allowed companies like Naughty Dog to tell some compelling stories in games like Uncharted and The Last of Us. Jackson mentioned that these sort of high-quality games are like mini-movies in themselves and that this showcases a lot more crossover between Hollywood and game making.

And speaking of game-making, Jackson shot down any confirmation of a game being made based on Mortal Engines. The reason for no game? Because it’s an original IP, and Jackson mentioned that in the world of movie making, there won’t be a game until the movie is a guaranteed success, and so far the success of the movie is still up in the air.

According to Jackson, most games based on movies don’t happen unless there’s a sequel or unless the movie is guaranteed to be a huge success, sort of like with James Cameron’s Avatar, which ended up getting a game based on the movie for the Xbox 360 and PS3. It was a typical mediocre third-person shooter from Ubisoft, but it’s proof that sometimes original movie IPs will get games based on them if the studios think the property is big enough to warrant the investment.

If Mortal Engines does become a huge hit and a sequel does get the green light, I wonder if Peter Jackson will take a hands-on approach with the development of the game, and what sort of narrative structure would the game take to avoid the kind of pitfalls that have plagued movie-games in the past?

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