In 1895 it was released in theaters what is considered the first film in history: Exit of the workers of the Lumière factory in Lyon Monplaisir of the Lumière brothers. At the time of the birth of cinema, literature enjoys an unquestionable status within the world of culture, while cinema emerges in the spaces of the populace, as in fairs.

It wouldn’t be until the mid-twentieth century that cinema would be recognized as a cultural and intellectual product at the height of the book. The writers rejected the medium, they saw it as a passing entertainment, that won’t contribute anything to the consumer and that it was a mere mass attractor. The adaptations of the books to the cinema were seen as a simplified and vulgarized version of a work of art. However, to this day, writers already sell their rights to the big producers before they’ve even taken out their books. But a new medium makes an appearance and also reclaims its space as a cultural product: videogames.

A month ago came the news that Andrzej Sapkowski, author of The Witcher Saga, had sued CD Projekt for the amount of 14 million euros.

"They offered me a percentage of the profits. I said, 'No, there will not be any profit at all, give me all the money that corresponds to me right now! The amount in full. ' That was stupid. I was stupid enough to leave everything in their hands because I didn’t believe in his success "said the author.

Andrzej Sapkowski wasn’t able to see the way in which video games may be able to exploit a story. Movies have a time limit on what they can teach. Video games have increasingly diffuse limits. Now it is easier to investigate the vast worlds that are described in books through the controller. Up to 137 square kilometers inside the huge map that made up the world of The Witcher 3.

Video games are more interested in adapting the universes created by writers than their stories

In the same way, it can happen with their religions, cultures, and creatures. Many writers create worlds of enormous cultural wealth, creating languages, festivities, songs, games, calendars, customs, and, in short, the day to day worlds that feel alive.

Not only affects what we can see and visit, but we can also better know the characters created in literature, and can establish conversations that go beyond what we have learned from them in the book. Video games are heavily based on dialogues, so we have the opportunity to know how these characters are in different situations.

Recreating all that universe in a film is very complicated, since we only see the point of view of the protagonist, without being able to travel beyond the established path.

Video games completely break that barrier, allowing us to experience those worlds as we read them. They are not adapting the stories of the books as much as their spaces and creative richness.

Small world of Deiland.

In Deiland, we live on a small planet that we can travel in a few minutes

An example the possibilities of recreating worlds of books is Deiland, inspired by the story of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince. In this case, we are not talking about a huge world to visit, it is more, we treat a very small one. The beauty of The Little Prince's story lies in the themes it deals with and how it treats them: the meaning of life, loneliness, friendship, love, loss... But Chibig, creators of Deiland, what they really wanted to adapt was: “What would it be like to live in a world as small as the one the Little Prince lives in?” Experiencing what it is to live on a planet that you can travel in a few minutes is something that can only be done in a videogame.

Another very clear example is how video games have exploited the worlds created by the writer H.P Lovecraft. The world of videogame terror owes this author a great deal, since most of them are not based directly on any Lovecraft story since they rather take elements of their narrative to develop their plot.

The first installment of the saga of Alone in the Dark (1992) entered fully into the Mansion Decreto to investigate the strange suicide of its owner. Inside, we found ourselves with the mission of deciphering the forbidden books - Lovecraftian works like the Necronomicon or the Vermis Mysteriis - and fighting against terrifying creatures - the Deep Ones or the Night-Gaunt, both part of Lovecraft's usual bestiary -.

Alone in the Dark did not seek to literally adapt a work by the author, but to recreate the atmosphere created during the reading of his works. Lovecraft bases its narrative power on the creation of a dark, tense and very personal environment that we can only find in his works. Transmitting this environment is a complicated task, but perhaps for that reason, it is also ideal to be reflected in an interactive product.

Alone in the Dark as an example of one of the first video games based on Lovecraft.

Lovecraft has been the basis of many horror games, such as Alone in the Dark.

In Eternal Darkness, another game based on the universe of the author, they experimented with sanity, an element with a tendency to be lost by the protagonists of these stories. So, if your character's sanity meter dropped too low, it began to affect how we saw the world: the rooms were turned upside down, the controls were inverted and you could even notice how the volume of your TV was lower and lower, the controller was suddenly disconnected or the game may be deleted. All these elements transport the loss of sanity beyond the screen, being a magnificent example of a profitable use of the medium, of which we spoke previously.

“Anyone who is creating anything based on something that others have created, whether it's adapting a book to a movie, a movie to a video game or a game to a movie, if the person who is responsible for adapting it is really creative, it will change things, will interpret them."
Dmitry Glukhovsky

Dmitry Glukhovsky, creator of the books of the Metro saga, being the counterpart of Andrzej Sapkowski, is a great defender of the idea that video games have been the main reason that the works of both authors have been so well known. Dimitry actively participated in the creation of Metro 2033, being in charge of the main script. He argued that he wanted both products to enjoy the same quality despite not having exactly the same story. "In Metro 2033 they managed to make you feel that others are human, so that when you play you perceive that you are a living character and that it is not just about running and shooting. I think he was the first philosophical shooter with feelings" he said. In this case, the Metro game not only took the apocalyptic space of the Russian metro but wanted to give an extra to a traditional shooter, adding the problems, reflections, and dilemmas that are typical of the author's saga. And what better than having the author himself to create it.

Metro 2033 video game

The author of Metro 2033 was very involved in the development of the game because he believed in its success.

Videogames are the ideal means to represent worlds of great wealth. Cases such as The Witcher and Metro 2033 will increasingly encourage great authors of the current fantasy to sell their rights to convert their works in video games. We look forward to knowing what will be the next book that will allow us to explore their world directly from the paper to the controller.

Seeing these great examples of adaptations of the book to video games, we wonder why more books are not adapted. It is possible that developers feel more comfortable working with audiovisual references. Now that more and more people enter the videogame industry and have worked in other sectors such as film or TV, it is possible that we will begin to see more and more adaptations, because what would be the cinema and TV without literature?


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Marta Gil

Marta Gil

PR, Product Manager & Social Media in Gametopia. FemDevs Regional coordinator.
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