Award winning author asks: 'Why aren't more books turned into games?'

Industry Insight: "Hollywood's cowardice can become gaming's unique strength"

Christopher Fowler is an English thriller writer responsible for numerous horror, satire and crime novels - and he's curious why more books like his haven't been turned into video games.

According to the author, games can create more faithful adaptations of popular novels - and his latest project, an adaptation of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds proves it.


Fowler is currently adapting the famous story for a fantastic-looking XBLA and PSN title due for release in early autumn, with voice work by Patrick Stewart.

He asks: "If a game can take 'War Of The Worlds' to places that a multi-million dollar movie couldn't (although I'm a fan of both films, they only represent the book in the broadest manner), where can a game take a book?"

Writing for CVG, Christopher Fowler lays his case for why novel adaptations have more potential in gaming than anywhere else.

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When I read a book I love, I'm usually surprised it hasn't been made into a movie, but now long-running brands and nostalgic franchises have taken over in the cinema, and most great books are one-offs.


As we know, a one-off is a huge risk unless it was a massive bestseller, and even those figures are comparative because a bestselling book can't begin to compare in size to a popular movie.

So my first question was always; Why aren't there more films by Ray Bradbury, Christopher Priest, China Mieville or a hundred other authors?

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?

Hollywood's cowardice can become gaming's unique strength.

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.


If you look at what we did on 'War Of The Worlds', the first big shock is how much more faithful it is to HG Wells than either of the two movies. If anything, we upped the ante to make more of Wells' original point - that invasion by a terrifying, unknowable source would be more devastating than invasion from a known enemy. By setting the story in 1953 we found new resonance. At least you could understand the viewpoint of a German invader - it would have been in recent memory. But the idea of a faceless alien with one simple aim, total extermination of the indigenous race, was frighteningly simple and brilliant.

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