Dear Hollywood executives who’ve never played a video game a day in their life-type people,
A few months ago I was both elated and terrified at the news that one of my favorite franchises would be heading to the small screen. I’ve been a Halo fan for many years, and even with the slight misstep of Halo 4 (a good game, but not the franchise's best showing), I’m still attached at the hip with the series. As you may or may not know, the epic fails of translating games to movies and vice versa are legendary in the film industry. Whether it is movie license title or studios trying to bring popular game franchises to the silver screen, it doesn’t really translate. It’s been a two-way street of crap. Granted, TV is a new medium for games, and recent experimentation has led to some promising results (see the Telltale Game series based on The Walking Dead).
So, as a courtesy, I thought that I’d give you a few simple tips and guideless (from someone who knows and loves the franchise), to use as your road map when setting out on this journey. You can call it the “How not to cluster-fuck this TV show” portion of the letter.
Find anyone on your staff that loves Michael Bay…and fire them.
OK, I can see this coming from a mile away. There are bound to be those who, at first glance at the Halo series, only see the weapons, vehicles and pretty plasma explosions. They’ll think to themselves “Man that CG grenade is going to look awesome!” I promise you, if you don’t immediately have security eject said person from the building, then you’re already setting yourself up for failure. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that much of the fun factor that Halo has to offer is directly tied to these elements, but that’s because it’s a video game. It’s interactive. TV is not. You’re not going to appeal to fans by just taking the flashy elements you think they’ll identify with and whoring it on screen. It won’t give us the tiny orgasm in our chairs you’re expecting, it will just remind us of those god-awful first person scenes from the movie Doom starring The Rock. I promise you, pandering will get you nowhere.
Don’t forget, Halo is actually a place!
If you ask gamers what initially drew them to the Halo franchise, it’s not going to be the multiplayer. Yes, the multiplayer was a huge factor later on (as system-link was the only way to originally enjoy it due to the absence of online play) but that was what they “stayed” for. The sights, sounds and the environments of Halo are what brought them in in the first place. It was putting characters like Master Chief and Cortana in locations that were both alien and familiar. One minute you’re on a futuristic space ship, the next your tearing through the beaches of Halo herself in a warthog. You’ll have to walk a balance between exotic locales and alien worlds, but ground it in something that makes sense to both gaming fans and the folks at home who’ve never set foot in the world of Halo before. Also, don’t forget the music. The monk-like choir and orchestral arrangements were a key factor in immersing us into this world, and so will it be with your show. If you don’t believe me, just ask the creators of The Great Gatsby what Jay-Z did for their movie.
Let Spielberg do his thing!
If you strip everything away, at its core, you have one hell of a story to tell with this series. Halo is well written from start to finish (at least, the main thread of the original trilogy anyway). From the characters to the story arches, it’s an edge of your seat adventure with twists and turns that many of us hardcore, jaded game veterans didn’t see coming. At its helm, you have the man. Steven Spielberg has been responsible for producing some of the greatest stories ever depicted on screen (both large and small). If there is anything that can kill a director’s vision faster, it’s the suits jotting down horrendous ideas in their boardrooms and trying to funnel them down into the finished product (usually to appease some sponsor or special interest). Just let the team of producers and directors do what they do best and you should be fine. The source material is there, it’s strong, just put it on the screen. If done correctly, it WILL translate. The best thing you can do is just get out of your own way and let this seed grow into the huge sequoia we know it can be.
…that gentlemen, is my plea. I know that this letter will probably never reach your eyes or ears, but hey, at least I’ll know I tried. I’ve seen a lot come and go in the world of gaming over the years, and there isn’t much that I truly hold near and dear to my heart in that regard. However, this franchise happens to be one of them. I’m asking you to just be gentle with her, and don’t make me regret letting you take my little girl to Prom.
The double-barrel shotgun wielding, over-protective father-figure-type fan,