Novelist Christopher Fowler: Developers Should Make Hollywood's Cowardice Their Strength

October 5, 2011 -

English Novelist Christopher Fowler shares his curiosity with Computer & Videogames about why more books like his haven't been turned into video games. According to the author, games can be used to create more faithful adaptations of popular novels. He says that his latest project - an adaptation of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds proves it. Fowler is currently adapting the classic story to an XBLA and PSN title due for release in early autumn, with voice work by Patrick Stewart.

In an article written for C&VG, Fowler explains how game design has changed and what game developers can do to take advantage of the literature that Hollywood is afraid of:

"Games used to be more problematic. The player decided where to go, so how could you have a literary adaptation with multiple endings? Kim Newman tried this with pretty much the first game/ novel hybrid called 'Life's Lottery', but the reading public wanted its stories to have closure, and the book wasn't the success it should have been. Closure makes better stories. The more openings you have, the less powerful the tale is.

Greek tragedies work because right from the outset, there's only ever one outcome, and it usually comes about because the hero/ine has a flaw they can't see, and that flaw gets exploited by enemies. So how could a book ever become a game?

Then a game designer told me something that made sense. He said that since side-scrollers moved on to 3D environments the player imagines having total control, but the secret of most games is that the main options are really all decided for you. So that, I imagined, was gaming's dirty little secret, that you didn't really get the one thing you most wanted - freedom to participate and choose your course of action, not truly.

Then something totally unexpected happened. Games started embracing their stories and acknowledging the secret. By doing this they opened up an incredible new vista for players. If you tell a story well, and then fill it with kick-ass action, you can have both a great time and enjoy a satisfying adventure.

This means that now, Hollywood's cowardice can become gaming's unique strength."

Fowler closes by saying that if game developers want to know which books they should adapt into games, all they need to do is talk to a writer.

You can read the rest of Fowler's thoughts on adapting literary works of art to the digital world here.


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