IGN recently reported that Bill Rosemann, Marvel's Creative Director, revealed the company’s stance towards video game adaptations. Rosemann explained that the company encourages developers to create their own story, within reason, that stands on its own. "We want all of our games to tell an original, all new story," Rosemann said. "We want [our development partners] to have passion, we want them to put their stamp on the games. It's their game. We want it to be their vision." The cynic in me not only sees Rosemann’s statements as carefully worded phrases designed to dance around the awkward history of poor game adaptations of comic book movies, but that same bastard is celebrating the news by popping bottles of champagne and toasting to Thor.
The first benefit is obvious, as pointed out by Rosemann himself: "We're also not going to try to do the very tricky balancing act of trying to make a game that adapts a movie and get it out in the same window as the movie." Speaking of rushed movie tie-ins, remember when The Dark Knight game was canceled? I don’t even remember when it was announced, because I had so much fun with Batman: Arkham Asylum. Although it’s sad that a company went out of business because it didn’t release the game in time with the movie, I’m also not convinced that a faithful or loose adaptation of the critically acclaimed sequel would have been better than anything in the Arkham series.
I’ll admit it’s been awhile since I’ve played a video game adaptation of a movie, but the ones I have don’t translate well to consoles. Key scenes from the movies, like Uncle Ben dying for like the 9,999th time, can feel diluted due to dips in quality of voice acting and animation, among other things. These games are often full of padding, too. Games are generally lengthier than movies, and certain sections of combat in a game often leave me thinking, “Wait, I don’t remember seeing this in the movie.” The only movie tie-in I can think of that somehow succeeded where the movie failed is X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but that’s an exception to the unpublished rule.
But I also see this is a chance for game writers to leave a mark on the comics they (hopefully) love. Take Ultimate Spider-Man and Batman: Arkham Asylum, for instance. The former might not have had swinging mechanics as enjoyable as the movie tie-in for the open-world Spider-Man 2. However, Treyarch had the opportunity to work within the series’ timeline and made a game that, although stuffed with villains for the sake of having enough boss fights, nails the look and feel of the comic. Part of what made the Arkham games so fascinating is seeing the same voice actors from the '90s cartoon let loose. Even Harley’s makeover would inspire the look for her comic book counterpart. Even if DC were to announce the games aren’t canon, Rocksteady can rest easy knowing they created a faithful adaptation that somehow managed to influence the comics.
I should point out that Rosemann spoke specifically of movie tie-ins, as opposed to comic book adaptations, which makes sense. The Marvel and DC movies are common ground for hardcore and casual comic book fans after all. But Rosemann’s statements, along with the upcoming releases like Insomniac’s Spider-Man and Square Enix’s The Avengers, make me excited for the state of comic book adaptations.