The Last of Us: film adaptations of games, gurl gamers and Amy Henning

Film

TheLastOfUsTitle

I don’t normally write about games on here, for a few reasons:

1. I am not a hardcore gamer, so don’t feel I really know enough to be able to offer constructive opinions or the basis for any discussion beyond “it was really cool” or “I got bored/frustrated and switched it off”. I probably play about 3 or 4 games a year in earnest, and am not well versed in the history of games. I just like to play them.

2. I have friends who are games journalists and they get A LOT of shit from gamers on articles or blog posts they write, as gamers it seems are also quite keen on the internet (who knew?!) so you have to be pretty thick-skinned to take on the gaming community.

3. I am a woman, and in my 30’s, and gaming is still seen as the preserve of young men, which is  a shame, but I am worried about the shit I’ll get. Hell, you’re all on the internet, you’ve seen the “Gurl Gamer” “Gamer girl” memes. I don’t want that kind of crap tossed my way, and I am not getting into that argument. Regardless of all that, gender and age are still issues.

The news that The Last of Us is being made into a movie, news that followed hot on the heels of the sad news that Amy Henning has left Naughty Dog, has given me something I think I can write about and not get hundreds of gamers saying “You don’t know what you’re talking about”.

First off, Amy Henning. We obviously don’t know the full story aside from various sterile press releases and internet gossip, but I am sad to see a woman go from such a prominent position at Naughty Dog.  If you’re not familiar with her, all you need to know is that she had worked for the company for ten years, and was writer/director of the Uncharted series. More importantly for me, SHE WAS A WOMAN WORKING IN GAMING. It shouldn’t still be a big deal, but it is. Anyway, I digress before I launch in to a rant about gender and technology, and I am sure there are many people better placed to make more well-informed and erudite arguments than I. Regardless of that, Henning’s “Uncharted” series is also currently being made into a film, originally with David O. Russell on board to direct, but now with Seth Gordon at the helm.

Now to The Last of Us. I loved it. It was not a game written for especially for women, it was just a really, really well-written and well-devised game. It had a familiar story-line, the post-apocalyptic zombie plague, but dealt with it in a very clever way. It made the game about the characters, it made you care what happened to them, and consequently increased the sense of peril you felt playing, as you wanted to keep these people alive. This wasn’t the run of the mill shoot-a-zombie-in-the-head affair. Men and women alike liked it because it was like playing through a film. Indeed almost every review comments on it’s cinematic quality. That’s what made it work for me, that it didn’t just want you to be pressing buttons, but to be immersed in the world they had created. So, it is no surprise really that Screen Gems are taking the story to the big screen, with Naughty Dog’s Neill Druckman (the creative director of the game) writing.

Ghost House Pictures will be producing the film, the team who were responsible for the recent Evil Dead remake. You know, the pointless one. They are also currently remaking Poltergeist, another pointless exercise. I can’t help but feel that making a highly cinematic video game into a video game-esque cinema experience may also fall into the camp of pointless exercise. Yes, games don’t appeal to everyone, but the beauty of the game was that if felt like it crossed between two media. Forcing it to become just a story may well mean it loses some of it’s magic. I could probably write a full essay about the relative success of cinematic adaptations of video games, but will keep this short and to the point.

There seem to be two kinds of film adaptations of video games, which for shorthand purposes I’ll call The Mortal Kombat and The Silent Hill. The Mortal Kombat takes a game which is action based and tries to switch it up into an action-based film, with horrific consequences (I still haven’t really forgiven Kylie for Street Fighter). The Silent Hill takes the essence and atmosphere of a game and works that into a cinematic experience. No, Silent Hill wasn’t the greatest film ever made, but it was a successful adaptation of the game in that it felt like the gaming experience. Maybe that argument just proves there are no good film adaptations of games. Who knows?! I am hoping that if anything The Last of Us falls into the latter category, and that Ghost House don’t try and be too literal in their translation. I’d like to see Joel and Ellie make it to the big screen, and for the characters to remain feeling like the people we got to know in the game, and not be replaced for more glamorous versions.

I do have my own ideas for casting however, as I would like to see veterans of other apocalyptic worlds  Viggo Mortenson or Thomas Jane as Joel, and of course Ellen Page would have been the ideal Ellie, but she would be too old now, so it might be a good role for someone unknown.

Do let me know your thoughts on the announcement of the adaptation, casting, gurl gamers, Mortal Kombat or whatever you like.

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